Winter 2019 McKendree Magazine

Sport Management Majors Go Pro

by Grant Riggs ’19

Sport Management Majors Go ProRecent graduates of McKendree University’s sport management program now represent the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL and athletic departments within the NCAA Power Five, Mid-Major and Division II collegiate conferences.

In a short time, sport management has grown to become one of McKendree’s most popular and successful majors. Initially a small and concise program started in 2011, it was based largely on theory, with about 30 students. In 2018, it has developed into a program of up to 90 students, with 14 to 20 graduates each year and classes that incorporate hands-on experience.

The difference? Credit Dr. Elisabeth “Lis” Erickson, the assistant professor who became the program’s first fulltime faculty member in 2014 after a seven-year teaching stint at the University of Iowa. “In the four-plus years I’ve been at McKendree, we have moved from mostly theorybased classes to classes that almost always incorporate real-life experiences and guest speakers who are currently in the field,” she said.

Assignments range from service-learning projects with local nonprofit organizations to developing marketing plans for students’ potential sport-related opportunities. “Sport marketing requires students to volunteer at least 15 hours for a nonprofit agency that works with sport. They then work together to develop a comprehensive marketing plan for that agency’s sport effort,” Lis said.

Seniors in the Sport Event & Facilities Management capstone class must research, plan, execute and evaluate a fundraising sporting event. In 2018, they posted a profit of more than $5,000 on a 5K/10K race for Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis and the Sport Management Society.

Lis is proud that the program is generalist in nature. “We can work with students who have aptitude and interest in working in every area of the field, from athletic communications to athletic fundraising at the college level, to community relations to ticket sales to sponsorship to facility operations to guest services. We help them develop those interests and skills, and find positions that fit them.”

In order to ensure students are obtaining the right knowledge, she utilizes her connections within the sport management field. “I am in regular communication with people who work in the sport field and I adjust the information I share with students, in and out of class, to reflect what current professionals say is happening in both professional and collegiate sport,” she said. “Our curriculum has adjusted to ensure students have both the theoretical knowledge and the practical experiences employers tell us they want their entry-level employees to have.”

Her students have taken advantage of the number of NCAA events hosted in the St. Louis area every year. “In previous years, they have volunteered at the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball tournament, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Regional, the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, and the NCAA Division I Wrestling National Championship. All of these were just a Metro ride away from McKendree,” Lis said.

Trevor Brumleve ’17 is an operations manager at NRG Park.Using their education, experiences and internships, McKendree graduates have made an immediate impact. Trevor Brumleve ’17 is an operations manager at NRG Park, a sports, entertainment and convention complex in Houston, where the NFL’s Texans play. “Being in one of the first classes in the program was beneficial because we were able to work with Dr. Erickson and other professors in the department to help build the program into what it is today,” he said. “I think the most beneficial part of the program is the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the industry and connect with industry professionals.”

Trevor, who oversees the set-up and tear down of all events at NRG Park, said his student experience of running an event from start to finish still stands out. “I was able to get a good sense of everything that goes into an event, even though it was on a small scale. I was able to get experience dealing with vendors, set-up and logistics, which are some of the main responsibilities that I have in my current position.”

Erica Schuelke ’17 is a fan experience representative for the Kansas City Chiefs.Erica Schuelke ’17, fan experience representative for the Kansas City Chiefs, agrees. “Having the ability to proactively learn in the sport management program through outside assignments or opportunities really allowed me to excel. Without classes like Sport and Event Management, I wouldn’t have had these ‘real world’ experiences prior to graduation,” Erica said. “Participation and actively learning how the sport world works was something so beneficial to excelling outside of the University.”

Another common theme among graduates is internship experience, which their professor emphasizes. “Internships are imperative in the sport field, and though the curriculum only requires students take one for credit, we strongly recommend that students do at least two during their time here,” Lis said. “They are how students gain ‘real-world’ experience and begin to build their own networks.”

In order to land these valuable internships, she encourages students to work with one another. “I’ve worked really hard to create a culture where sophomores, juniors and seniors share résumé, cover letter and interview ideas among themselves. Our seniors and more experienced juniors will help sophomores and less experienced juniors with their résumés,” she said. “They'll share tips on preparing good questions to ask interviewers and questions to anticipate in an interview.”

An Internship Forum has taken place every fall for the last three years. Hosted by the sport management program, it allows other students to learn from the success of juniors and seniors. “We talk about everything from how to find housing and navigate living in another city for almost four months, to some of their biggest challenges. It’s really helpful to hear these stories from current students,” Lis said.
Lewis Brown ’18 is a business consultant with Spurs Sports & Entertainment.
Lewis Brown ’18, a business consultant with Spurs Sports & Entertainment (San Antonio Spurs), found success through his internships, which included experience in golf operations, guest services with the St. Louis Blues, and sales at Florida Atlantic University. Lewis said, “I held three different internships during my time at McKendree. Without these experiences, I probably would not have been as fortunate as I was when it came time to decide on where I wanted to go after graduation.”

Lauren (Putbrese) Carro ’16 and Kendall Butler ’16 also found direct success because of internships. Lauren is the senior manager of guest services and event operations for the St. Louis Blues NHL hockey team. “At the end of my sophomore year, I went to Career Services and they set me up with the tools I needed to land my internship with the Building Operations Department of the St. Louis Blues,” she said. Lauren (Putbrese) Carro ’16 is the senior manager of guest services and event operations for the St. Louis Blues.“I’m thankful to have started in building operations, even though I’m not in that department now. Having the understanding of how the building works and what needs to happen behind the scenes has prepared me for my role today in guest services.”

Kendall, who majored in marketing but took many sport management classes at McKendree, also utilized connections from an internship with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons to land her current position as premium sales consultant for Las Vegas Stadium, future home of the NFL’s Raiders. “My internship helped me immensely,” she said.

Kendall Butler ’16 is a premium sales consultant for Las Vegas Stadium.“When I was with the Pistons, I not only gained valuable experience but also made connections around the sports world, which helped me when I started my job search.”

As Lis looks at the program she has built in just five years, the progress is evident. In-class experiences, hands-on projects and internships are allowing McKendree graduates to make immediate impacts in their field. “Employers—both at the internship and full-time, ‘real’ job level have repeatedly told me that our students’ and alumni’s abilities to speak to these experiences put those folks head and shoulders above other candidates for the same position,” she said.

“I’m extremely proud of where our alumni have landed. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.”




Grant Riggs, a senior public relations major and sport management minor, produces video for Bearcat athletics and calls baseball games on the Bearcat Sports Network.