By Larissa Gojdycz | Photos by Kathy Hillegonds and Randall Spriggs
When I first read about the “Behind the Scenes with Chicago Sports Organizations” course, the only thing I could think of was sign me up. Then I realized that the class was one week long, Monday through Friday, so would require me to take time off from work.
Being employed full-time while attending the MBA program at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business is not uncommon for many students. Balancing work with graduate school is not easy. But after thinking it over, and realizing I could complete an otherwise 10-week course in a one-week time frame, I knew it would be worth it.
The week-long course ended up offering so much more than what I had expected. It was jam-packed with events ranging from speaking to a panel of DePaul alumni who work in sports to watching the Blue Demons men’s basketball team beat Texas Tech in overtime. When coworkers questioned why I took time off from work to go to class, I questioned why they wouldn’t take the time for a class like this.
Here are some highlights from the week:
Meeting Chicago Sports Teams
Our class met and visited five major Chicago sports teams. That’s right, we went to the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox offices and stadiums, where we met with the employees of each team and received tours of the facilities. One of my favorite tours was of the American Airlines 1914 Club at Wrigley Field, led by Cubs Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing Colin Faulkner. A few years ago when the Cubs wanted to increase revenue without being able to add seats, they dug out the dirt from under the seats in the stadium and created three premier clubs. The 1914 Club was a sight to see. The Cubs designed the room to replicate the era of the 1910/1920s, with gold and sleek accents. The Chicago Cubs offers the 1914 Club to ticket holders in the section behind home plate, where they can access drinks and food and buy exclusive Cubs gear only available to that suite. It was amazing to see how a company was able to think out of the box to increase revenue without adding seats to a stadium.
Visiting Sports Agencies and Companies
Another component of the sports industry we learned about was sports agencies and companies. Our class visited three agencies that deal directly with sports teams or companies that have sports sponsorships and/or relationships, like Gatorade, which was one of the companies we visited. We got to see the behind-the-scenes of how these agencies execute marketing campaigns for brands that want a sports integration or experience. Our class ended the week with a brainstorming session with the agency 4FRONT, which gave us some hands-on experience with the work they do and some interesting insights on how they do it.
Whether it was with the sports teams, agencies, brands or even fellow students in the class, meeting and networking with people was a definite highlight of this course. Over the week we met with more than 70 professionals in the sports space and were able to talk one-on-one with whomever we wanted to. It was invaluable being able to connect and chat with everyone. At the end of the week we had a round-table discussion panel with DePaul alumni who currently work in sports: Kacie Dohrmann of Northwestern Athletics; Mike Gordon of Learfield/Northwestern Sports Properties; Nick Bennett of the Blackhawks and Tim Weaver of the Wolves. We also met with three Kellstadt Graduate School of Business alumni, who were once students in this course: Max McNutt of Marketing Werks, Roger Uy of DePaul Athletics, and Graeme Jones of 4Front.
On top of making connections with people during the site visits, I made many connections with students in the class. Many of us were in the same boat with our careers, so we were all very excited to be exposed to the number of people we got to meet as well as make connections among ourselves.
These highlights are just a small peek into the amazing and productive week I had with the “Behind the Scenes with Chicago Sports Organizations” course with Andy Clark, director of the sports management program at the Driehaus College of Business. The days were filled to the brim and we were always on the go, but the experience is something that will stick with me for the rest of my MBA journey, as well as career.
Larissa Gojdycz graduated from Marist College in New York with a bachelor’s degree in advertising. She works full-time as a media manager for a large retail company and is pursuing her MBA, with a focus on entrepreneurship, at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. Originally from northern New Jersey, she is still adjusting to Chicago winters, even though she’s lived in Chicago for five years.