Shawnee Pickney-Forrest in her playing days at Columbia Credit: Columbia Athletics

One of the greats of Columbia University women’s basketball, Shawnee’ Pickney-Forrest (class of 2001), has been named to the Ivy League’s 2023 Class of Legends of Ivy League Basketball who will be formally honored at the upcoming Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments. 

More than two decades after graduating, Pickney-Forrest’s name still stands out in the Columbia record books. As a student-athlete, she received multiple honors, including All-Ivy First Team. “It was a team-first mindset all the time,” she said.

“Columbia was ideal for me because it afforded me the opportunity to have the best of both worlds,” said Pickney-Forrest, who appreciated the chance to have a positive impact on the women’s basketball program while attending a great university. After her time as a student-athlete, during which she earned a bachelor’s degree in urban studies and sociology, she remained at Columbia to earn a master’s degree in public education policy.

Shawnee Pickney-Forrest today Credit: Courtesy Shawnee Pickney-Forrest photo

Recruited by several universities, Pickney-Forrest was a highly focused student and valedictorian at Washington Prep High School in Los Angeles. At Columbia, she was pleased to see two Black women in Columbia’s athletic department who became her mentors.

“During my tenure, all of the teams that we had were getting progressively better,” said Pickney-Forrest. “We were able to gather some players who were serious about the craft and were prideful about wanting to put in a good effort.”

Pickney-Forrest brought her understanding of team dynamics into her career. “It’s the camaraderie, the coordination aspect and it’s building rapport,” she said.

After Columbia, she taught for several years, and then went into social services, where she was an education consultant for youth and families in foster and kinship care. “You’re working with kids, so you have to have an understanding of what it’s going to take to motivate them…to do what they needed to do academically,” she noted. “You also had to have that understanding of different people needing different things, which you learn as a teammate.”

Pickney-Forrest subsequently became an auditor, working in several positions, including serving as principal performance auditor for the San Diego Office of the City Auditor. Now, she’s advisory senior manager with MGO, a CPA and business advisory firm. That requires looking at each department, client or person individually and understanding individual and collective needs.

“You’re working as a teammate to make progress on any respective goals they’re trying to accomplish,” she said. 

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