Guest Speakers

Sport Management Alumn Hosts Brown Bag Event

Sport Management Alum, Mikio Yoshimura at Brown Bag eventSport Management alumnus Mikio Yoshimura, who currently works as the Asian Business Development Specialist for the Boston Red Sox, served as the guest speaker at a Brown Bag Luncheon in Boston on Tuesday, June 13.

The event, put on by the Japan Society of Boston, was titled “Japan and the Red Sox: A View from Inside.” During the luncheon, Yoshimura shared experiences about all the work that the Red Sox organization and Fenway Park have done with Japan.

UConn Sport Management congratulates Yoshimura for this accomplishment and looks forward to seeing all that he will achieve in the future with this organization.

2017’s Inaugural Sport Business Conference

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.

Students utilize teamwork skills and collaboration while preparing for a presentation for one of the Sport Business Conference workshops on Jan. 28.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.

Sport Management professor and advisor, Dr. Laura Burton, speaks at a panel at the Sport Business Conference on Jan. 28. 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.

DON’T MISS IT! Book Signing and Q&A with “INDENTURED” author Joe Nocera – March 8, 4:00-6:00pm

Book Signing and Q&A with “INDENTURED” author Joe Nocera – March 8, 4:00-6:00pm

Images courtesy of Joe Nocera and Penguin Random House


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Author Joe Nocera

Joe Nocera, New York Times journalist and columnist, and an author of the new book, “Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA” is coming to the UConn Storrs Campus for a book signing event which will be held on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 from 4:00pm-6:00pm at the Storrs Center Bookstore. The event will include a moderated interview and question and answer dialogue.

Click here for the NY Times review of the book.Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.47.12 AM


Issues in Sport: Diversity in Sport Leadership

Issues in Sport: Diversity in Sport Leadership

Article written by Kimberly Armstrong, re-published courtesy of The Daily Campus

Earlier this year, the Buffalo Bills hired Kathryn Smith as the NFL’s first female full-time assistant coach. Despite the excitement surrounding Smith’s ascent into football history, the consensus among panelists Thursday morning at “Issues in Sports: Diversity in Sports Leadership” was that this is just the beginning for women on the sidelines.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.03.07 PM“Issues in Sports: Diversity in Sports Leadership” was part of sports management graduate student Wura Olusekun’s cornerstone project. Olusekun, who hosted the panel, said she chose to study sports management at UConn’s School of Education because of the program’s emphasis on diversity and social issues.

“I’m not an athlete but I was very interested in the connection between education and athletics,” Olusekun said. “The term ‘coach’ and ‘teacher’ can be interchangeable.”

In order for women and minorities to progress through the ranks of sports management, athletics organizations need to understand how diversity ties into the overarching goals of a successful franchise, said panelist Nicole Melton, an assistant professor of sports management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Melton said that her research into Division 1 programs suggests that the most diverse programs are also the most competitive.

“We saw that the ones that had the most diversity and the most inclusive practices, they out performed other D1 leagues, they made more money,” Melton said.

Making these changes across the world of athletics, however, has to be about more than just PR to be effective. According to the panelists, it requires a cultural shift away from “tokenism,” the pursuit of diversity for diversity’s sake, in exchange for ongoing support of inclusive workplaces that encourage employees to reach their full potential.

“It can’t just be, ‘oh we need to hire some diversity’,” Melton said. “It needs to really be tied to the message [of the organization] so that people understand why this is beneficial.”Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.03.21 PM

Fleurette King, director of the Rainbow Center at the University of Connecticut, likened this shift to the recent changes in how the NFL and other leagues handle concussions among players. No matter how supportive an organization’s policies surrounding concussions may be, King explained, players are still at risk if league culture values keeping them in the game over their long term health.

“If you don’t change the culture around how people feel about the concussion, and how they feel before and after the concussion, it’s not going to help,” King said.

Similarly, women, people of color and LGBTQ people can’t be fully appreciated in sports leadership positions if they are viewed as tokens of diversity rather than accomplished colleagues who deserve to be there. This is part of the reason why policies like the Rooney Rule, which requires the NFL to interview minority candidates for open coaching positions, can be less than effective even when they do result in a minority candidate getting the job.

Another issue with this type of hiring policy is implicit bias, the human tendency to be most comfortable with familiar people. As an example, Melton, a Texas native, admitted she would feel an immediate bond with anyone from the south even if she knew nothing else about them. The impact of this implicit bias can be as simple as who someone decides to start a conversation with or, in this case, as high stakes as who gets chosen for a head coaching position.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.03.35 PM“We see with research that we tend to think similar things with race, with gender, with sexual orientation,” Melton said. “If there’s only three old white dudes on the search committee, they might not recognize the implicit bias that they have.”

Laura Burton, an associate professor of sports management at UConn, said she believes exposing athletes to female coaching early on could help remove the barriers to women at the university and professional levels. While there remains a mix of male and female coaches for women’s sports, encouraging female coaches to stick with youth sports past middle school could help shake the idea that male players require a strong male presence to perform on the field.

“It could mean a mix of men and women at all levels, and I don’t know if I’ll ever live to see that but I’d like to move us in that direction,” Burton said. “We need to recognize that right now women only have access to one group.”

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Issues in Sport: The Relationship between Sports and Academic Achievement in Schools

Issues in Sports: The Relationship between Sports and Academic Achievement in Schools

The University of Connecticut Sport Management program seeks to foster personal and professional growth in our students. Undergraduate and graduate students engage in thought provoking discussions in their classrooms. At the conclusion of the Fall 2014 semester, our graduate students had the desire to further such conversations to a space outside of the classroom setting. They wanted open dialogue with a wider audience. On December 9 the program launched its first discussion of the Issues in Sport series where we created a forum to talk about social issues and their impact on sports.

Approximately 30 students, faculty and staff members attended the Issues in Sport discussions series to discuss the relationship between sports and academic achievement in schools. Through a WebEx conversation, UConn alumnae Anne McKernan and Karissa Niehoff spoke to the audience about the role, positive and negative, that sports play in a student’s academic life. The key theme of the discussion was creating and maintaining balance for student athletes, After hearing from the guest speakers, attendants engaged in small group conversations about an article posted in The Atlantic entitled “High-School Sports Aren’t Killing Academics”.

Overall, the event served as a way for the community to express ideas and concerns about the current state of academics and sports. There was a great turnout by fellow sport management students and faculty; however, representatives attended the event from the Rainbow Center, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources as well. With such diverse backgrounds, there was much opportunity for versatile discussions and continuous networking.

The Issues in Sport discussion series will continue in Spring 2016. Dates and topics are to be determined.

Guest Speakers:

Anne McKernan (2011), the Director of Leadership Development for the CT State Department of Education and a former chief academic officer for the Enfield Public Schools and school principal at CREC’s Metropolitan Learning Center.

Karissa Niehoff (2010), the Executive Director of Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CAS-CIAC).

Native American basketball star Shoni Schimmel speaks at UConn

Native American basketball star Shoni Schimmel speaks at UConn

Article written by Max Engel, photo taken by Olivia Stenger, both courtesy of The Daily Campus.

As a part of Native American Heritage Month, Shoni Schimmel spoke at the University of Connecticut’s Student Union Theater on Tuesday night, regarding her experiences as a Native American in the WNBA.

Schimmel was raised on the Umatilla Reservation in Mission, Oregon. She started the evening by reciting some of the ignorant questions she was asked in high school, such as, “Do you guys live in teepees?”

Schimmel described her reservation as a place where “everybody knew each other,” but outside the reservation and in high school she faced discrimination from classmates and teachers alike. When applying to colleges, Schimmel received a remarkably disparaging rejection letter.

“It said, ‘Go back to your reservation,’” she explained.

Schimmel, currently plays for the Atlanta Dream and was featured in a documentary “Off the Rez.” After attending high school in Oregon, she attended college in Louisville, Kentucky, and was drafted into the WNBA when she graduated in 2014. While playing college basketball at Louisville, her sister Jude was among her teammates.

Eventually, President Obama choseJude as a moderator for the 2015 White House Tribal Nations Conference, where she was seated close to the President as he spoke.

“It’s not about who has the nicest car,” Schimmel said, as she gave a background to the more modest mindsets held within her reservation.

Schimmel suggested that injustice towards Native Americans easily slips through the minds of many people, as one of the nuances of race relations in America. However, the general populace is slowly but surely becoming more mindful of the struggles of Native Americans.

An example of this is the documentary “Reel Injun,” which describes the degrading portrayals of Native Americans in film. There is also a significant movement protesting sports teams’ use of Native American mascots, such as the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins.

Regarding the controversy over the Washington Redskins mascot, Schimmel said she disagreed with its use. She noted that the use of such terminology is unusual and egregious within the context of other NFL team names and American professional sports altogether.

Max Engel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at

Don’t Miss It! ESPN’s Jemele Hill presented by the UConn Sport Business Association

Don’t Miss It! ESPN’s Jemele Hill speaks with UConn students on Tuesday, 22 September

Organized by the UConn Sport Business Association, on Tuesday, September 22 at 6pm in Laurel Hall 102, UConn Sport Management students will have the opportunity to meet and hear directly from Jemele Hill about her experiences as a national columnist and ESPN presenter.

Check out the SBA’s introductory video for a snapshot of Jamele.

Courtesy of ESPN Media Zone:
Jemele is a co-host for His & Hers, formerly Numbers Never Lie, with Michael Smith. The show airs weekdays at noon ET on ESPN2.

Hill and Smith also co-host an ESPN Audio podcast His & Hers with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill.

Hill joined ESPN in November 2006 as a national columnist on who also makes regular appearances on television, including SportsCenter, ESPN First Take, Jim Rome is Burning, and Outside the Lines.

Before joining ESPN, Hill worked as a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 2005 – 2006. From 1999 – 2005, she served as a sports writer with the Detroit Free Press covering Michigan State football and basketball. Hill began her career in 1997 as a general assignment sports writer for the Raleigh News & Observer.

In 2007, Hill won the first annual McKenzie Cup, which is given in tribute to groundbreaking sports editor Van McKenzie, at the annual Poynter Media Summit. She also received an honorable mention in the 2007 edition of Best American Sports Writing. In 1998, Hill won first place in sports feature writing at the North Carolina Press Association. Hill is also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

A native of Detroit, Hill attended Michigan State University and graduated in 1997 with a degree in journalism and a minor in Spanish.

Alumni Focus: Leigh Michaud – ESPN Remote Operations

Alumni Focus: Leigh Michaud – ESPN Remote Operations


As a part of a new series, we turn the spotlight on members of the UConn Sport Management Program (SMP) Alumni Community, focusing on the diversity of experience and breadth of knowledge they have gained within the industry. Designed to help current and future SMP students learn to navigate and understand the real-world intricacies of sport management, we thank SMP alumni for their valuable contributions and insight. Today, the focus is on UConn alumna Leigh Michaud (B.A. in Sociology, 2009, M.S. in Sport Management, 2012), who works in the remote operations team for ESPN.

UConn Alumna Leigh Michaud (B.A. in Sociology, 2009; M.S in Sport Management, 2012) is an excellent example of determination and perseverance for UConn students looking to break into the sports industry. Having set her sights in college on getting one of the highly-sought after jobs at ESPN after graduation, she never gave up, though there were periods where job prospects at the leading sport and entertainment broadcaster in Bristol, CT appeared to be bleak.

Without a doubt, her tenacity paid dividends, as today she holds a key role in planning the logistical and technical operations of ESPN College Football. So what did she do when her contacts and calls to ESPN failed to result in any job offers? She went to a local temporary job agency to get that all-important “foot in the door” opportunity – a temporary minimum wage job in the mailroom of the organization.

“The temp agency said that I probably wouldn’t be interested in taking the mailroom position, as I was overqualified for the job,” said Michaud, “But I jumped at the opportunity!” She was in good company starting in the mailroom, as number of other successful ESPN employees broke in to the organization through it as well. One prime example: former ESPN President George Bodenheimer.

It turned out to be a fantastic job for her, as it gave her unfettered access to all divisions and departments across the ESPN campus – which then allowed her to put her networking skills to great use. She got to know key people throughout the company, was able to learn details of all the different types of jobs at ESPN and find out what role was the perfect fit for her interests and ambitions. In two months she was hired out of the mailroom for a part-time job in ESPN3 Operations. Six months after that, she was offered a full-time position in College Football Operations.

She recently spoke to Dr. Joseph Cooper’s Sport Marketing class, sharing her experiences in the industry and advice for persevering in one’s attempts to break in to the industry. Leigh’s advice to students? “Don’t be afraid to apply for entry-level and part-time positions,” she said. “Apply for all sorts of different opportunities… be open, be honest, be yourself… and don’t ever give up!”

Alumni Focus: ESPN’s first college intern – VP Mike Soltys

Alumni Focus: Mike Soltys – ESPN Vice President, Corporate Communications


As a part of a new series, we turn the spotlight on members of the UConn Sport Management Program (SMP) Alumni Community, focusing on the diversity of experience and breadth of knowledge they have gained within the industry. Designed to help current and future SMP students learn to navigate and understand the real-world intricacies of sport management, we thank SMP alumni for their valuable contributions and insight. Today, the focus is on UConn alumnus Mike Soltys (Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, 1981), who now serves as Vice President, Corporate Communications at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, CT.

On Monday, March 31, ESPN Vice President of Communications Mike Soltys came to UConn to speak with the university’s Marketing Club about his job. Soltys, an alumnus of UConn’s communications program, graduated in 1981 and has been working at ESPN for 35 years.

Soltys’ professional career started before he even left UConn. As a student, an ESPN representative came to speak and talk about internships, which led to his first opportunity with the company.

“I am the first and last unpaid intern,” Soltys joked.

Such dedication and tenure to the company has brought Soltys much success throughout his career. In his current position, he is in charge of public relations for television and radio outlets associated with ESPN, along with conducting research on viewer and listener ratings and interests.

However, things have changed a bit since he started. The advent of social media has made the industry even more fast-paced. Because of this, he claimed, handling public relations effectively and efficiently remains a priority. Nowadays, his operation uses Facebook, Twitter, and ESPN’s Media Zone , which was developed strictly for press relations, for branding and public relations purposes.

In all, though, Soltys praised the emergence of Twitter, claiming it is one of the best engines to connect the ESPN brand to a large audience.

“It is extremely important to have good relations with fans,” Soltys said.

Having been a recipient of networking from his days at UConn, Soltys was glad to come back to campus, share his wisdom, and serve as a fellow resource for the Husky community. Did he expect to be in this position 35 years ago? Not at all. But, similar to the sport product, life is certainly unpredictable.

“You have to be ready,” Soltys said.

Alumni Focus: Allison Cantor – ESPN Legal Department

Alumni Focus: Allison Cantor – ESPN Legal Department


As a part of a new series, we turn the spotlight on members of the UConn Sport Management Program (SMP) Alumni Community, focusing on the diversity of experience and breadth of knowledge they have gained within the industry. Designed to help current and future SMP students learn to navigate and understand the real-world intricacies of sport management, we thank SMP alumni for their valuable contributions and insight. Today, the focus is on UConn alumna Allison Cantor (B.A. in Political Science, 2004, J.D. in Law, 2010), who works in the legal department of ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, CT.

Allison Cantor

“I love the fact that here’s no such thing as a ‘typical day’ when working within the legal department at ESPN,” said UConn alumna Allison Cantor during a recent visit to UConn’s campus to speak to Dr. Joseph Cooper’s Sport Marketing class. “One day it’s cable and satellite affiliate contracts, and the next it’s a consumer product licensing deal,” she continued, “I learn something new every day and get to work with all sorts of different people through a broad array of projects.”

February was a very good month for sport management students interested in an insider’s view of legal work at one of the world’s leading sport and entertainment broadcasters around the world. Allison has made several trips back to Storrs throughout the month to share her insights and experiences from her career at ESPN, most recently at the “Career Night in Sports”, hosted at the UConn Alumni center on February 26.

What key skill does she highlight to current students looking to break into the industry? Networking. It is a skill that can take time to develop and requires practice – so she encourages students should be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to network when they can. To Allison, networking was a skill that was as important during her role as the UConn women’s basketball team manager as it was when she was completing her law degree… and it continues to be extremely valuable today in her job at ESPN.