(Written by Guest Blogger: Lorie Briggs, Director of Communications & External Relations, USF College of Business)
Just weeks after graduation, 16 of the 19 graduates from the inaugural class from the University of South Florida MBA in Sport & Entertainment Management have accepted offers for professional and executive-level industry jobs in the Tampa Bay and across the nation. Students have accepted executive-level offers from Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., the Westchester/New York Knicks, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, among others. Locally, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tampa Bay Rays, North American Sports Group, and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino are among the firms snapping up these grads.
This program is an excellent example of ways that industry-education partnerships benefit students and the region.
Launched in 2012 and made possible by a partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning and The Lightning Foundation, the program requires students to firmly grasp important business concepts as well as industry-specific issues such as contract negotiation, conflict resolution, and sports communication. USF places students in two “residencies” that provide on-the-job training and opportunities to see how classroom lessons play out in the industry.
The newly hired director of marketing for the New York Knick’s new “D-League” affiliate, Katie Hatch spent three seasons with the New York and St. Lucie Mets and a season with the Tampa Bay Rays before enrolling in USF’s program. She says that the residencies and industry partners were as important as the program’s top-notch faculty.
“Even though I had experience working in the sport industry before starting this program, I was able to fill several ‘gaps’ in my background because of it,” she says. “In baseball, I had my hands in a lot of areas – event management, sales, community relations.” But two pieces were missing, she says: merchandising and media.
“As a resident at FOX Sports Florida, I was part of the team that handled marketing, production, public relations, and social media,” she says, pointing out that the graduate students are given specific responsibilities and purposeful tasks during the residencies.
“It made me a more competitive candidate for jobs like the one with the expansion team in New York, one directly owned by Madison Square Garden.”
Matt Schick, who earned an undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech and spent four years as a member of the Corps of Cadets and the Naval ROTC program. He says his residency with the Tampa Bay Lightning gave him a chance to participate in the nitty gritty work involved with game and event operations.
“It gave me a chance to develop my analytical skills from an operations perspective and expand my understanding of large venue operations,” says Schick. He did everything from supervise parking lots to assist in security operations. He gathered data in the field and built a parking revenue tracker to provide executives with event-by-event details.
Schick and Hatch are both quick to credit the program’s faculty for connecting them with the people and organizations that matter.
“The people that you meet are one of the most important differentiators. I met more influential industry leaders in my two years of grad school than I did in four years in the industry,” says Hatch, quickly crediting the program’s internationally respected faculty for making such connections possible.