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!!