Current Role: University of Illinois – Business and Financial Analyst
Graduation: BS Sport Management; BA Economics, 2013
Hometown: Chester, Montana
Q: What did you study at Xavier and when did you graduate?
A: I graduated in 2013 with a bachelor of science in sport management and bachelor of arts in economics.
Q: You held a number of different positions as an undergrad at Xavier, what were they and how did they help you.
A: I worked and volunteered in a variety of positions within the Xavier Athletic Department. I started as a student worker answering phone calls, sorting mail and delivering documents to other departments on campus. This position allowed me the opportunity to start relationships with other employees in the athletic department and throughout campus. Through these newly formed relationships, I was able to take on an additional role with the women’s basketball team as a student manager. As a women’s basketball manager, I assisted setting up for practice and games while also travelling to away contests. During my junior year, I volunteered for the marketing department at Xavier Athletics. As a volunteer, I assisted in game day promotions for men’s and women’s basketball. Each of these positions allowed me to experience and observe a unique aspect of college athletics. As I progressed as a student, I was able to put together the big picture of how athletic events are constructed and how they comply with the mission of the university. The most influential position I had was interning for the Xavier Athletic Business Office. As a business intern, I mostly processed invoices, purchase orders, cash advances and expense reports. As the internship progressed, I began to prepare financial reports and analysis under the supervision of the Associate AD for Business. Working in the athletic business office allowed me to pull back the curtain and learn how athletic finance functioned in a college setting. I was also able to gain experience in the financial structure of a university. Most importantly, Greg Park, the Associate AD for Business and my supervisor, was a remarkable mentor. Greg frequently took time out of his day to teach me about various aspects of athletic finance. His most famous words were, “You will not read that in a textbook.” He was right. I was learning the basic skills of an athletic business manager that could not be easily transcribed into a textbook.
Q: What classes or experiences at Xavier best prepared you for your job today?
A: I am not sure if there was any one particular class that prepared me for my current position at Illinois. Xavier challenges their students to think critically and analytically in every situation. This is evident through Xavier’s implementation of a diverse and rigorous core curriculum. Constantly, I was challenged to collaborate with my peers over texts and topics I was unfamiliar with. Through these cooperative discussions, I developed critical and analytical skills that are desirable to future employers. My economic courses enhanced these skills by using quantitative analysis and theoretical discussions to tackle practical issues. The two most important experiences I had at Xavier were traveling abroad my entire junior year and interning for the Xavier Athletic Business Office. While abroad, I backpacked through Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Traveling opened my eyes to new cultures and theories I was unaccustomed to. I took the time to meet other travelers in buses, coffee shops and hostels to discuss their culture, lifestyles and values. It was equally as interesting to listen to other people’s observations about American culture(s), values and influence. I gained a remarkable amount of personal growth while traveling abroad. Interning for the Xavier Athletic Business Office gave me firsthand experience in athletic finance. I was largely responsible for business processing which eventually led into some financial reporting and analysis under the supervision of the Associate AD for Business. Interning allowed me to learn about athletic finance and the university structure outside of the borders of a classroom or textbook. When I interviewed for athletic finance positions, I was able to focus on my critical thinking, analytical and collaborative skills which were supported from my successful internship.
Q: How has working on the business side of college athletics differed from your expectations?
A: Athletic business offices have become responsible for handling a diverse amount of subject matter. Many people are under the impression that business office professionals only focus on debits and credits. This is not the case. Athletic business office professionals are often responsible for budgeting, financial reporting, insurance, risk management, legal questions, compliance, financial analysis, taxation, human resources, donations and information technology just to name a few. Therefore, good business officers need to develop skills to collaborate with each department in the athletic organization. Keep in mind, not everyone in each department has the same background, has the same organizational goals as your own nor do they fully speak the same financial jargon as yourself. You need to be able to present information that can be easily understood by all of your constituents rather than just the business office. Likewise, it is important to understand the information developed by your constituents to have meaningful discussions.
Q: Would you say that double majoring at Xavier was helpful to you? Why?
A: I think double majoring with a respectable degree in a competitive marketplace is helpful to gaining the position you desire. I enjoyed the sport studies courses I took at Xavier. However, after graduation, I realized there was an excess of sport studies graduates with a finite number of positions. Students should seriously consider enhancing their resume with unique skill sets that bring value to the organization. This may mean adding a second major, taking a leadership role in a university or community club, actively volunteering for local charities or interning for an athletic organization. Employers are interested in hiring talented people with the necessary skills to be a productive employee and participate in a vibrant team. Therefore, employers are also interested in well-rounded employees.
Q: Do you have any advice to share with current Xavier students looking to get into the business and finance side of sports?
A: Keep in mind, not everyone studied at a Jesuit university that focuses on a liberal arts education. Not everyone may the see the value of the rigorous core curriculum. Therefore, you should focus on how studying at a liberal arts school teaches students to think critically and analytically on a variety of subjects. Ultimately, students should emphasize the personal growth obtained from studying at a liberal arts institution and how its education developed them into well rounded adults. With that said, it is important to participate in classes you find interesting rather than easy. I also believe developing a relationship with a mentor is important. A mentor is a useful person to collaborate with. Good mentors will offer guidance and feedback to new projects and future careers. A good relationship is hard work for the mentee as well. You need to be willing to ask questions and have meaningful discussions with your mentor. The mentor can also learn from your skill set and background. Together, the mentorship can grow personally and professionally. Lastly, just because you graduated from college does not mean you should stop learning. I say this because understanding business concepts in a classroom can oftentimes be difficult to implement in the workforce. After graduation, you will find yourself with an abundance of knowledge eager to make decisions for the benefit of your employer. Your colleagues have much more practical experience than yourself. Take the time to listen to the advice your colleagues are willing to provide and show your employer your capabilities rather than tell them.