The happy hour lasted into the night, as the alumni, faculty and fellow huskies working in sport shared appetizers, laughs and old memories from their days at UConn. Attendees included alumni from the recent graduating class of 2016, as well as those who were members of the undergraduate class of 2004.
Drs. Laura Burton, Joseph Cooper and Jennifer McGarry (Bruening), Sport Management’s faculty, were also in attendance, along with current undergraduate student and Sport Management intern Cristy Vincente.
The second annual happy hour event provided the opportunity for alumni in the greater NYC area to reunite, connect and continue to build relationships with those in similar career paths and academic backgrounds.
The Sport Management program is always looking for ways to connect its alumni with one another after graduating.
The UConn Sport Management program is excited for its next alumni event, where alumni and graduate students will meet in the Hartford, CT area at Salute restaurant on August 24. For more information or to register, please visit our Summer Networking Event.
For photos from the event, visit Neag’s Facebook page.
Kydani Dover, a 2007 Sport Management Master’s graduate, ran the Boston Marathon for the first time this April to fundraise for a nonprofit, youth development organization that supports students’ academic achievement through athletics.
Boston Scholar Athletes works to assist student athletes at the high school level in three areas: academic coaching and mentoring, health and wellness and post-secondary planning, said Dover, who has worked for the organization since August of 2016. It aims to bridge the achievement gap in urban public high schools, 19 of which are in Boston and three in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Dover, along with five others from the organization, ran the 121st annual Marathon with a goal of raising $50,000 altogether. Through their efforts garnering support from friends, family, co-workers and local businesses, they have raised approximately $40,000 in total so far.
In the months leading up to the marathon, Dover said she was stressed due to the pressure to constantly train and raise money. Even after completing the 26.2 mile race, she agreed that the preparation was the most difficult aspect of it all.
“Running the marathon was one of the best experiences that I’ve had, everyone was running for different charities and it was kind of like a community event,” Dover said. “It was something that was good not only for everyone in Boston but people all around the country. There’s people from all over the world, crowds cheering you on, it’s really just a one-of-a-kind experience.”
Dover added that despite her doubt regarding whether she would be able to finish, all of her training and hard work paid off as she maintained her endurance to make it through the end.
A competitive swimmer in high school and at UConn, Dover picked up running to stay in shape after her athletic career ended. She said that she thought the marathon would be a great opportunity to do something that she enjoyed while also being able to give back at the same time.
The money raised by Dover and the rest of her Boston Scholar Athletes team will support the organization’s efforts to increase both academic performance and high school and college graduation rates. According to her fundraising page, a $100 contribution will provide one student with the materials needed to complete a year-long SAT prep while $1,000 will provide 100 members with a college campus visit.
Dover’s hard work paid off greatly, and the Sport Management program at her alma mater is very proud of all that she did, and continues to do, to benefit the Boston Scholar Athletes organization.
Khalil Griffith is a first year master’s student in the Sport Management program who was given the opportunity to travel to Kenya, for the second time, from Feb. 23 to Mar. 8 of this year. During this most recent trip, Griffith conducted workshops held to promote healthy masculinity in villages throughout Kibera and implemented positive youth curriculums into communities, with the organization ‘A Call to Men.’ Here he shares his experiences from both trips, and how his ventures changed not only the lives of others, but his own as well.
I set out on this trip for two main reasons: to enhance my life experiences through sport and to promote healthy masculinity, while also helping to end violence against women.
When I traveled to Kenya last June, I laid the groundwork for a student exchange program that uses sport as a tool to provide cultural exchanges between students in Kenya and students in the U.S. During this most recent trip, I not only continued to build that foundation, but I also hosted various basketball camps and clinics in numerous villages and schools throughout the country.
During my time in Kenya, I also conducted workshops focused on promoting healthy masculinity in multiple villages in Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums. Last year, the organization, A Call to Men, developed a curriculum for children ages six to 12 to teach this guiding principle. While in Kibera, I worked with other colleagues to train members of the community about how they can implement this important curriculum in their communities.
One of the most memorable moments of my trip was my visit to a women’s maximum-security prison. I was amazed by how different the structure was from a typical penitentiary in the U.S. This prison had a very restorative focus compared to the more punitive atmosphere that we often see in prisons in the United States. I had never seen women so empowered by the justice system before. Many of them admire and respect the guards as they would their own mothers. There were also various programs in place at the prison, such as yoga, and we were even able to bring jump ropes inside to the women during our visit. It was truly inspiring to hear about the growth that these women have made during their time in jail, and furthermore to see the joy in their faces when they participated in such programs in a positive environment.
As I mentioned previously, during the summer of 2016, I was granted the opportunity to travel to Kenya to lay the groundwork for sports programming, basketball specifically. While I was an undergraduate student at Ithaca College, I conducted research that delved into accessibility in youth sport with relation to socioeconomic status. This research, in conjunction with my experience in coaching basketball and youth sports programming, is what truly inspired me to make this trip across the world.
Though I had originally decided to travel to Kenya to further my research and conduct clinics, I left having participated in an experience that would change not only my life, but also the lives of many others around the world.
While in Kenya, I traveled around the country and visited schools, interacting and playing with kids ranging from ages three to 19. One of the most memorable experiences that I had was when I spoke to students at Paul Boit Boys High School, an all boys’ school in Eldoret. There I discussed with 500 young men the impact that sports has had and continues to have on my life, as well as the opportunities that basketball has given me. After the talk I was then able to interact with some of the young men and engage in activities with them. While that was a truly humbling experience, it was what happened next that had the lasting impact on me.
After meeting with the school principal and other members of the community, they informed me that they had graciously decided to name their basketball court after me. The court was in much need of a renovation, consisting of uneven gravel, crooked basketball hoops and damaged soccer balls that substituted as basketballs. But over the last few months, we have come together to develop a project that will not only completely renovate the court, but will also establish programming for the local youth. In doing so, we will foster a sports exchange program with children in Kenya and in the United States that will allow for a cross-cultural exchange for students all over the world, offering programming to students who otherwise may not have been granted that opportunity.
Paul Wettemann is a junior at the University of Connecticut, currently pursuing a degree in Sport Management and a minor in Business Fundamentals. During his time at UConn, he has become heavily involved with the men’s basketball team, Sport Business Association (SBA) and the planning of UConn’s first Sport Business Conference.
Wettemann serves as the Chief Marketing Officer for the SBA, an organization that helps students further their career paths in the sport industry. The association meets weekly and invites professionals to speak and discuss their employment experiences, providing advice on how to succeed in the sport world.
“Everything that I am involved in at this point in my collegiate career has been because of the people I have met and the things I have learned from this group,” Wettemann said. “I really do mean it when I say that too, because there are so many different opportunities for people to learn from in the sport industry and SBA gives any student that puts the effort in a great chance to succeed.”
In addition to all that he has done with the SBA, Wettemann also served as the co-director and founder of the Inaugural Sport Business Conference, an event that hosted students from seven universities throughout New England to network with fellow students and sport professionals. Held on Jan. 28 of this year, the conference featured employees from organizations including ESPN, Fox Sports, the New York Mets, Connecticut Tigers and Manhattan Sport Business Academy. Through participating in workshops, speaking events and forums, students were given the opportunity to gain valuable experience that spans far beyond what they are able to learn in the classroom.
Since his sophomore year, Wettemann has also worked as a student manager for the UConn men’s basketball team. While doing so, he is responsible for assisting the coaches, staff and players at practices and games with whatever they may need. He has even been able to travel with the organization throughout the season, and was granted the opportunity to attend the Maui Invitational this past Thanksgiving break.
Wettemann’s sport involvement at UConn does not end there though, as he also works with UConn Athletic Operations as a game day assistant and student leader. As a game day assistant, he completes setup, breakdown and in-game duties at all athletic events, and as a student leader, he is responsible for coordinating with other student employees to ensure that all mandatory tasks are being met.
Wettemann emphasized how much he values hard work, and said that he believes it is truly the key to success.
“One of the most important things that I have ever been told is that you never know who is watching you, so you always want to make a good first impression,” he said. “Following this mindset has been a great help to me in my very early career, and it is something that I will continue to try to improve on as I move forward.”
In his little free time, you may find Wettemann on the field or the court playing intramural flag football or basketball.
“Each day for me is pretty different, and I think that’s one of my favorite parts about what I do, to be honest,” he said. “Working in sports can be unpredictable and present new challenges each day, and while some of those challenges may be more fun to tackle than others, I always enjoy making the best of it.”
This past summer, Wettemann made his first steps in the sport industry outside of UConn, serving as a front office intern for the Connecticut Tigers. While working with the A-short season affiliate of the Detroit Tigers in Norwich, Conn., he was able to gain experience with the ticket sales, concessions, promotions and operations departments.
Wettemann will continue making strides in the industry, and recently announced that he will be spending this upcoming summer working as a facility operations intern for the Brooklyn Nets. He said that he is excited for the opportunity to begin working with a professional sport organization.
His excessive experience has allowed Wettemann to recognize that in the future, he hopes to work in operations or event management for a professional sports team, specifically for the MLB or NBA, or for a Division I school. He said that sports have always played a large part in his life, acting as an escape from everyday responsibilities and stress, and it has always been a goal of his to turn that passion into a career.
“I have always been a fan of the saying, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,’” Wettemann said. “Now, being a second semester junior and having accumulated all of the different experiences that I have, I can say without a doubt that I will be able to succeed and enjoy every minute of working in sport, because it is something that means more to me than simply watching games or being a fan.”
Pat McKenna, the UConn Associate Director of Athletic Communications and current Sport Management graduate student, works primarily with the women’s basketball team. He shares his experiences working with the organization, specifically while at the NCAA Final Four, and discusses the strenuous responsibilities that these student athletes have during that time, in addition to winning games.
I have had the privilege of serving as the primary media relations contact for the UConn women’s basketball team for the past six years. Each of those years has ended in a trip to the NCAA Final Four and the last four seasons have successfully concluded with the Huskies hoisting the NCAA national championship trophy.
Though traveling with the Huskies to the Final Four has been both exciting and rewarding, it has also become apparent that the NCAA and ESPN seem to have little regard for dedicating free time to student athletes. The rigorous schedule that the players, especially the five starters, are forced to endure during the days leading up to the national semifinal makes it difficult for them to make their performances in the game the priority.
The Division I NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Final Four was held in Indianapolis in 2016, a great host city due to the fully-equipped Bankers Life Fieldhouse that offers several hotels in close proximity, allowing teams a short commute to and from the arena. But before the four competing teams are able to participate in any kind of competition, they are required to run through a gauntlet of media responsibilities, beginning two days before the national semifinal.
In my three previous Final Four experiences, this session took place at the arena. However, in 2016, it was instead held at the palatial NCAA headquarters. I must admit that the setup of the NCAA headquarters was ideal, due to the fact that the building offers several large rooms in close proximity, making it easy to travel from one requirement to the next.
On the Friday before the national semifinal, I drove the five starters and Geno Auriemma to the NCAA headquarters in an NCAA courtesy van, armed only with our itinerary that included constant media responsibilities from 10:15 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. All six Huskies knew what was ahead of them when we met that morning, which is why none of them seemed very happy to see me.
The first item on the agenda was a “tease shoot” for ESPN and NCAA.com. During this 50 minute session, each player and coach is asked to perform a variety of tasks, including but not limited to staring at the camera in an intimidating fashion, yelling excitedly and answering questions asked by ESPN and NCAA.com producers. These clips are then displayed during the game broadcast on ESPN and online on ESPN.com, ESPNw.com and NCAA.com.
Some of the NCAA representatives and I were able to corral everyone and bring them down the hall to the Summitt and Wooden rooms, where all six Huskies met with the ESPN production team for a half hour to hold off-camera interviews. The talent team, consisting of Beth Mowins, Doris Burke and Holly Rowe, was in attendance for this session, along with game producer Phil Dean and several other ESPN employees who play an integral role in the game broadcast.
This half hour is valuable for the production crew because it provides an opportunity for them to gather background information from the players and from Coach Auriemma that they can then use during the broadcast. It also offers a chance for the organization’s members to get to know the players a little better and to further comprehend the mindset of the team. All of the players, and especially Coach Auriemma, feel comfortable talking candidly with this group as its members are both trustworthy and professional. Everyone truly enjoys working with all of the organization employees.
Once the Huskies have wrapped up with the production crew, the team rotates to different rooms where they hold discussions with the Westwood One radio crew and film some additional light-hearted, on-camera antics to be used on the in-arena video board.
With all the hoops that this team is forced to jump through, it can oftentimes become pushed to the side what they are truly here to do – win a national championship. If the team were to lose that vision, even for only one second, they would be brought back to reality very quickly at the start of practice following our time at the NCAA headquarters.
Brent Colborne, ESPN’s Director of Programming and Acquisitions, graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2005 with a B.S. in Business Administration and a minor in Sport Management.
On Feb. 13, Colborne and his programming team visited UConn and attended a networking event hosted by the Sport Management program to discuss their experiences working in the sport industry with juniors and seniors in the program.
Colborne shared that one of the most challenging aspects of his professional career was ultimately getting his foot in the door with ESPN, and mentioned that he might not have been able to do so without the help of the faculty at UConn.
While taking a Sport Management class taught by Dr. Jennifer (Bruening) McGarry, Colborne was introduced to three executives from ESPN, all of who still work with him in the programming department. Having met one of them a few weeks prior at an ESPN career fair and connecting with her a couple of times after, the rest was history. He provided her with his resume, she passed it on, and he interviewed and was offered an internship with the organization during the spring semester of his senior year.
Colborne acknowledged that one of his favorite parts about returning to campus that day was having the ability to do for current students what previous professors and executives did for him during his time at UConn.
“Being able to pay it forward to the Dr. McGarry’s of the world – I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for her and other people who were there when I was there,” he said. “I was looking at it as an opportunity to give what I wish I had when I was a junior or senior back to students at UConn, and that was the most rewarding experience.”
Though he enjoyed showing his colleagues the place where he had spent four years of his life, Colborne was excited to network with current students and provide them with valuable advice regarding their future careers and aspirations in the sport industry.
“Take advantage of what UConn has to offer,” he said. “We’ve got unbelievable facilities, best-in-class teams at all levels, so for someone who wants to work in the sport field and not take advantage of those opportunities with successful teams and great venues would be a disservice to that major.”
A Student Perspective: Crucial Takeaway’s from the UConn Sport Business Conference
The University of Connecticut Sport Business Conference was held on Saturday, Jan. 28 and was organized by students in the Sport Management program. The conference welcomed students from schools throughout New England and speakers from organizations including ESPN, New York Mets, Major League Baseball, FOX Sports and many more. The event offered a unique opportunity for students to listen to keynote speakers and panels, network with professionals in the sport industry and participate in workshops with other students focused on specific aspects of the business.
Network, network, network! Approaching professionals in the sport industry tends to be somewhat intimidating and nerve-wracking, especially as a student who one day hopes to pursue a career in their field of expertise. Despite the difficulties of doing so, it is important to remember that starting a conversation offers significant potential and has the ability to form the foundation for a beneficial professional relationship. In events like the Sport Business Conference, it is vital that students take advantage of the minimal time they have with these mentors. Don’t be afraid to take a chance – no potential connections can be made if there is no initial conversation.
Don’t compete, collaborate. At the conference, students were given the opportunity to learn about the importance of working as a group, and coming together with people who may be unfamiliar, to achieve a goal. Students at the conference participated in workshops focused on sales, event planning, communications and many others, to create proposals and presentations that the mentors would eventually evaluate and critique. Although it is tempting to view other students as competitors for job and internship opportunities, it is vital to remember that networking with students with similar interests and goals can be as valuable as doing so with professionals.
Follow up. It is always beneficial to thank people for taking the time to talk with you by sending a quick email about how much you valued their words and insight. The mentors and professionals in the sport industry are the people that you can learn the most from, so it is worth a shot to reach out and ask questions about the path that they took to lead them to wear they are now. Remember, your path may be very similar to theirs, so any advice or knowledge they can give you about their own experience is something of value that has great potential to help you along the way.