DeRetta Cole Rhodes
Braves' executive vice president and chief culture officer committed to community
An active baseball roster consists of 26 players. But it takes many more people to make up a team.
The Atlanta Braves employ more than 450 full-time staff, plus hundreds of part-timers. These staff members (teammates, really) support not just the players, but every aspect of the game and franchise operation. It’s everything from ushers who help fans to their seats to web managers who keep the Braves looking good online.
All of them fall under the purview of DeRetta Rhodes.
“We like to encourage people to consider Braves games a destination activity,” says Rhodes BS ’92, PhD ’10, the Braves’ executive vice president and chief culture officer. “Everything we do touches on the experience of fans and the community.”
Rhodes had more than 20 years of experience in human resources when she joined the Braves in 2019 as their senior vice president for HR. Since then, Rhodes was promoted to executive vice president and chief capital officer, and, just prior to the 2022 season, she became chief culture officer. That role added community affairs and communication departments to her portfolio.
Rhodes’ new title digs much deeper than a simple rebrand. It speaks to a more thoughtful, intentional way that the Braves organization aims to relate to its community.
“Culture is the way in which someone feels about the organization that they’re part of,” Rhodes says. “Everything we do, we’d like to think, ties into how people are engaged in the organization—whether it’s related to community relations, our foundation work, or how we communicate to our community, fans, and staff.”
One important aspect of the organization’s culture is its approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion, an area that has been a part of Rhodes’ career since before the terms were even formalized.
Rhodes’ current role is simply the latest step in a career that has been defined by growth and experiences that have built on each other. In 2020, Rhodes created a DEI council for the Braves that explores issues of social justice through the prism of a professional sports organization.“Diversity is what people see of you,” Rhodes says. “But inclusion is about feeling welcome, so I have seen that evolution. And then as we have gone through the pandemic and also seen recent instances of social injustice, that’s where you see the equity part of it, as well.”
Rhodes’ sense of community is something that her UGA experience helped her discover.
Rhodes majored in hotel and restaurant management in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and eventually returned for a Ph.D. in adult education. She is a past president of the FACS alumni board and received the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2020. She currently serves on the full UGA alumni board and is an in-demand speaker for campus presentations ranging from TEDxUGA to the Terry College of Business Professional Women’s Conference.
“It’s important for me to tell a story that’s impactful,” Rhodes says. “I hope people see me as an authentic storyteller, not just about my career but also my personal experience.”