Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Georgia [Southern] on my mind..."

Hi Everyone!

I'm Jessie Gardner and I'm originally from beautiful Sarasota, Florida - home of the best beaches in Florida! I did my undergraduate here at the University of Central Florida where I played soccer (Go Knights!!) and I am loving the fact that I get to spend a little more time here in Orlando on this wonderful campus as a student in the DeVos Sport Business Management program.

Although Monday starts the week and we’re back to the grind, it brings a smile to my face to reflect on our class’ trip to Savannah, GA this past weekend for the GA Southern Conference. Not only was it a weekend to further our networking skills and to network the DeVos program to others, but we also had the opportunity to see one of our directors in a different element and meet a bunch of people from different universities and colleges.

Every year, GA Southern hosts a Sports Business Conference that allows students from all over to hear and interact with professionals within the sports business industry, as well as meet other students who share similar career interests. Although the 29 members of my class see Dr. Sutton in the office every week, it was a privilege and unique opportunity for us to hear him in a different element, as he was the Keynote Speaker at the conference. He spoke on what is to come in the sports industry, as far as ticket and seat accommodations at events to having corporate names on major American sport uniforms. His speech was fun and interactive (never thought I’d see one of my directors in a Star Trek uniform!), but really made you think too. He challenged us to think outside of the box, as anything is possible in society today, and prompted us to evaluate what these advancements in sports meant as far as future careers. It was great to see how he captivated the group. I found a built up anxiousness for our classes to begin with him this summer.

Some of the other speakers at the conference included Gilbert Beverly, Director of Sports Management at ESPN; Melissa Kristofak, Associate Director of Communications for the Atlantic 10 Conference; Matt Lynch, Director of Guest Services for the Atlanta Braves; Chris D’Orso, Vice President of Marketing for the Orlando Magic; Chris Sperry, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Atlanta Beat; and Erika Brakken, Senior Marketing Manager for Adidas. They all presented informational messages specific to their job and in a general sense for us as we try to break into this industry.

A former DeVos student from the 2010 graduating class told me that their class had bonded greatly on this trip. At the end of the first day of the conference, I felt disappointed because I did not feel our class was getting that same experience. However, by the end of the conference, that feeling was completely changed. As it has been mentioned before, we consider ourselves more than a Sports Business Program, we consider ourselves as the DeVos family. I saw members of my class connecting with each other in so many instances; during our heated debate on cell phones during lunch, as we relaxed on the rooftop of a local restaurant, in helping one of our classmates try to find her misplaced phone, in one-on-one conversations about life and what’s to come, over our butter soaked delicious dinner at Paula Deen’s restaurant, as three cars stayed to help a classmate when his car would not start, and when some of us stopped at the house our classmate grew up in and visited with his parents. There are so many more instances I could share from the weekend, but I found myself reflecting on the way home of the sense of family I felt with these individuals I met just 6 months ago. It’s incredible to know that I have this type of support, with people I can laugh, cry, stress, and make memories with.

To wrap this up (obviously I am as we say, long winded!) this conference was more to me than just networking. It was more to me than learning more about the industry I am pursuing. To me, it was an opportunity to build my relationships with those around me, to heighten my confidence in who I am as a person and as a member of the DeVos family, and to grow as I stepped out of my box in meeting others. I am a very lucky individual to have been chosen to be a part of the DeVos family and I continue to look forward to all the opportunities and experiences that are still yet to come.

Have a great day!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's more than a program ... it's a family

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family:Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
~ Jane Howard

Wow! What a blur these past few weeks have been. We have gotten more involved in our new rung of classes, we have been planning trips to Savannah, GA and New Orleans, LA, and we have had guest speakers ranging from John Walsh of ESPN to members of the UCF Athletic Department. It really has been a whirlwind as the class of 2011 is just now settling into the new semester and our onslaught of new classes and responsibilities.

This semester I took over as the Recruitment Chair for our class and in preparing to go to the Georgia Southern Conference in Savannah this week, myself and some of my classmates have been working on some recruitment materials. Yesterday, I was working on a display with my friend Cristi and in doing so, we were using the old board as a reference. We were looking at the old board and getting ideas when we saw a maxim across the middle of the board:

DeVos: "It's more than a program... it's a family."

The two of us got a laugh about how cliche this slogan was but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while cliche, there really is no better way to put it. I have a unique experience in that for a year and a half I get to spend my time with 28 other people from all across the world who share my passion: to make a difference in the world through the use of sport. While we share that similarity we could not be more diverse and more different. We come from all backgrounds and all locations but over the past 6 months, friendships have been formed and lasting bonds have been made. I look at my 28 classmates and realize they aren't just friends they are family.

As a class we have always been there and supported each other and like any group of people we have had our disagreements but at the end of the day - we are family. I know that if need be, any of my 28 classmates would support me in my greatest triumphs and have my back in my greatest hour of need. I once got a card that read, "friends are the family that you choose" and while DeVos may have chosen the 28 people who I would call family, I would not have chosen a different group of 28 if I had the power to go back and make that choice myself. My 28 classmates are an amazing group of people and I am lucky to be counted among that group. We are a close-knit group who support one another through thick and thin. I am excited to be a member of this class and about the things that we are all going to accomplish in the coming months and once we have received our degrees.

This is why I chose DeVos; this is why I'm proud to be DeVos; and this is why (if you're at the Georgia Southern Conference this weekend) I hope that you will come visit me at the DeVos table and listen to our director Dr. Bill Sutton speak and see if the best decision that I ever made is also the best decision for you. I'm proud to be in the DeVos program but more than that I am proud to be a member of the family that is the DeVos Class of 2011.

Have a great week,