MSA Students Tour Big Ten Conference Offices
“In the sports industry, any type of relationship you can form is a step in the right direction,” said Jane Obringer, a student in Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies’ Master of Arts in Sports Administration (MSA) program. Recently, Jane and 15 other students from the program took a big step in the right direction when they attended a private tour of the Big Ten Conference headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois. The tour was led by the Big Ten’s Andrea Williams, associate commissioner of football and basketball operations, who guided the 45-minute tour of the state-of-the-art facilities, opened in September 2013. Following the tour, the students took part in a meet and greet and a Q & A session with staff members from the Big Ten Conference and conference sponsors who shared tips and insider advice. “All of the panelists in the Q & A had very different career paths,” said Obringer, “but they all emphasized the importance of personal connections and persistence in the sports industry. They stressed, ‘Don’t be let down by who lets you down,’ and the importance of taking initiative at the beginning of your career.”
The event was organized by Rebecca Womack, vice president of events for the MSA Board, a student- and alumni-run organization designed to connect program faculty, industry professionals and MSA students with each other through out-of-the-classroom networking events and learning opportunities. The Big Ten outing was one of many facilitated by the MSA Board, which aims to execute at least one special event per academic quarter in the hopes of giving students access to the professional landscape they hope to break into. Previous events have included a tour of the Chicago Bears’ Soldier Field facilities, a Q & A session with Chicago Blackhawks executives at the United Center, and a pre-game, behind-the-scenes tour of the home of the Chicago Fire, Toyota Park. With such a rich variety of sports organizations and industry professionals in the Chicago area, the events provide students with the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of all aspects of the industry and to supplement their coursework with invaluable networking opportunities.
“One of the biggest challenges of being in the sports industry is that so much of any job you get is who you know or how your name was passed along,” said Obringer, the Board’s vice president of communication and digital media. But the Board-organized networking opportunities available to students provide them with an extra competitive advantage when they embark on their careers. “It’s one thing to go to class and learn about the industry,” Obringer said, “and it’s another to go out and meet industry professionals, hear about their career paths and establish real-world relationships.”