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My goal is to open the door for our students to sprint through for their first sport industry experience.
Assistant Professor of Sport Management
Alfred State College - SUNY College of Technology
My role at Alfred State is a little different from that of a Professor at many colleges across the nation. Where many Assistant Professors are focusing on research, my primary responsibility is to focus on our students.
My typical day starts with teaching in-person in various classes. I have taught everything from Sport Finance to Sport Marketing and event some computer classes on campus – I can’t deny being a bit of a nerd.
After classes, I spend a little time catching up on grading or prepping for my classes for the next day. However, I spend the majority of my “free time” networking. Whether it is through LinkedIn, Twitter, email, phone, etc. I am putting my “boots on the ground” so to speak in order to facilitate connections for our students.
My goal is to open the door for our students to sprint through for their first sport industry experience. That is a primary part of my secondary role as Internship Coordinator.
Don’t tell anyone – but I have to say this is likely my favorite part of my job. I love being in the classroom, but this role gives me the opportunity to truly collaborate with my students.
I spend a ton of time outside of class meeting with our Sport Management students here at Alfred State. The goal is to ensure the student and I are on the same page while working toward that final internship.
Our internship course is a major part of our curriculum at 12 credit hours (480 working onsite), so we put a lot of emphasis on preparing for that. By the time my students are sophomores I know almost everything about them from their hometown and career aspirations to their ability to travel across the country for an internship. That makes this partnership seamless and the process a lot easier.
Another major part of this role is networking on my end. As I said before, I need to help open the doors for students. The first step is brand development and recognition of our program.
A key feature of an education at Alfred State is applied learning – meaning we focus on “hands-on” training. My job is to ensure our prospective employers know that so when an Alfred State resume is sitting on the table, they grab it.
In terms of balancing the two, it really is not too difficult. It’s truly a blessing to have both roles because I talk about concepts and theory in the classroom and my students use that in our conversations.
They may come to me after a Sport Communication course and say, “Public relations is a topic that is particularly interesting to me,” and that translates into our conversation for internships. I doubt a lecture goes by where I don’t reference the internship and the skills we learn that day that will impact their chances of getting an internship. So really, the integration is ideal.
The Sport Management program at St. John Fisher was fantastic for me. It was the wake-up call I needed after high school. I was a big fish in a small pond coming out of high school, and SJFC put me in my place.
I had the intention of going on to be a professional baseball player after college, but I quickly found out once I stepped on the field with the Cardinals that, that was likely a pipe dream.
Additionally, I can think back to my Intro to Sport Management course where Professor Scott Bryson brought me into reality. I failed my first exam and he pulled me aside and said something to the effect of “college isn’t for everyone.” After being a top student in high school, it brought me to my senses, and I took academics much more seriously after that.
Overall, I would not trade anything from my time there. The academic and real-world experiences were beautifully blended to ensure I walked into the sport industry a consummate professional. I use that today in every single one of my classes because I know that is the greatest gift I received during my time at SJFC.
Recent graduates need to understand that the sport industry is coveted by everyone. Who doesn’t want to work for their favorite team? Recent graduates from law school are willing to take a lower salary just for the opportunity to work with the Boston Celtics. Therefore, the competition is tough – so a person needs to persevere since it can get discouraging while applying for jobs.
Networking is a major reason why anyone will get a job in the sport industry. And that first step towards networking is scary. Students frequently think that people who work for the “big-time” sports franchises don’t have time to speak with them. However, that’s the beauty of the sport industry. People are more than willing to help. Taking that first leap takes some courage, but it will pay handsomely in the future.
As many students have likely experienced in their Fall 2020 semester, adaptability is key to any position, including a student role. However, in the sport industry, you truly have to think on your feet because you never know what to expect. Having a story prepped for an interview about how you adapted to a difficult situation is always a good idea.
This is paramount in the sport industry. If you don’t love working in the sport industry, it is going to be hard. We work long hours with little recognition for mediocre pay. That is the reality of things in sport.
However, if you love what you do and have a passion for it, it will be worth it. My passion while I worked directly in the sport industry was seeing the student-athletes succeed or simply the smile on their face when they saw a graphic that my office had developed for them.
Everything I did, the long hours, the rainy days, the missed birthdays and weddings – it was all for them and that moment. Never underestimate the impact passion can have on you and your career.
Fortunately for us, we have been minimally impacted by restrictions and protocols. We still instruct our students in-person daily. The classroom certainly looks different between desks being spaced out and me lecturing primarily behind a plexiglass wall. Additionally, if students come in contact or become positive with COVID, they simply quarantine for 14 days and tune into the live stream of the class through Blackboard Collaborate.
One thing that has certainly changed is the amount of group work we do in class. I am not one to stand in front of the class and lecture for an hour or two hours straight. My students would get very little out of that.
So, I try to get students into groups as much as possible to work on case studies. Therefore, we have had to get creative with how we do that in a social distancing environment. It was tricky at the beginning, but my students were resilient and figured out the nuances that go into that.
I truly am proud of how they have handled everything thrown at them. I obviously wouldn’t be able to do it without them, so I am truly grateful for our incredible students.
The advice I would give to recent graduates is stay in school. Queue the Billy Madison references. But in all honesty, the best move I made was going directly to my master’s program.
It really is difficult to go back to school. I am still procrastinating on my Ph.D. because I know how difficult it is going to be. I am used to my lifestyle and going back to school is a threat to that. So just getting it all out of the way while you are still trained as a student is a good idea.
Another major piece of advice for graduate school is – get someone to pay for it. There are so many graduate assistantships out there. Take advantage of it. Not only will you likely get your tuition paid for, but you will also likely get a stipend along with some housing and meal plans. It also gives you more time to get trained in your specific profession while learning more about yourself as a person. A lot changes in the years directly after college. Graduate assistantships can help with that transition.
Outside of education, it is also important to get practical experience in the field. That is what helps me in the classroom. I can rely on all of my experience to help tell a story.
We as humans, and in turn students, learn much better through stories. Therefore, when I’m in the classroom, as opposed to simply talking about theories on a face-value approach, I give as many accompanying stories as I can so it’s easier for students to remember and apply in their own experience.
Alfred State College Assistant Professor of Sport Management Brandon Harrison is extremely dedicated to his students. In addition to teaching, Brandon goes above and beyond to support his students and set them up for success. His excitement to get them started with an internship and prepare them for the real world really shows his dedication and drive. Brandon is an exemplary professor and individual who put his academics first to get to where he is today. He is a great role model for aspiring, current, and recently graduated Sport Management Students.