Center exposes students to sports industry, jobs

Mike “Doc” Emrick of NBC was one of several industry professionals the Center for Sports Media and Marketing brought to Point Park in 2016-17.

Written By Dara Collins, Staff Writer

What began as a mere idea between two Point Park alumni has now closed out its sixth successful year of operation.

Mike Fetchko, owner and managing director of ISM-USA, and Tom McMillan, vice president of communications for the Pittsburgh Penguins, graduated from Point Park in 1978. The duo teamed up years later to give back to their alma mater.

“We both had great experiences at Point Park, and we got great educations there, but we thought, ‘What’s the one thing we didn’t get?’ And that was access to real world professionals,” McMillan said.

The Pittsburgh Center for Sports Media and Marketing provides just that.

Evan Schall, a new media coordinator for the Pittsburgh Penguins, remembers the Center’s earliest stages while sitting on the first Student Advisory Board.

The structure was similar to its present state. The Center included a Student Advisory Board and a graduate assistant that worked alongside Fetchko and McMillan. Members of the Center were required to complete office hours. Schall said the Center was all about helping with internship,  job hunting and engaging with industry professionals.

The Center remains focused on professional knowledge about regional, national and international topics and trends in this fast-paced industry, but a few tweaks and additions have been made.

The Student Advisory Board is now made up of subcommittees. In 2016, a Corporate and Alumni Advisory Board was added to the Center. The Center is a blend of students on campus and the world they’re trying to get into, according to McMillan.

The Center has sponsored trips to the Baseball Winter Meetings Jobs Forum since 2014. Students undergo weeks of preparation including resume and cover letter reviews as well as mock interviews, according to sports, arts and entertainment management (SAEM) senior and Honors Assistant Dani McSweeney.

Three students attended the Meetings in 2014; two of them accepted offers. Seven students attended the following year, where five accepted offers. In 2016, 11 students attended the Meetings, and 10 accepted offers, according to a Center fact sheet.

Point Park is earning a good reputation at the Meetings, and the Center hopes to bring more students in the future. Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Keith Paylo said the Center strives to land students even more internships and job success.

The young organization is serving as a foundation for many successful students.

Graduate Assistant Kelsey Veydt reflected on her experience with the Center as she prepares to begin a new full-time career after graduation.

Veydt was a (SAEM) student and graduated in May of 2015 before returning for a master’s degree in business administration with a focus in management.

As the graduate assistant, Veydt engages in every aspect of the Center’s functions, including but not limited to marketing, the planning of professional and student events and creating and posting content to social media.

Veydt’s graduate internship was with the Pittsburgh Pirates in community relations. There, she helped with anything involving the organization giving back to the community.

As Veydt begins her full-time career as a marketing and communications associate for Matthew’s International, the search for a new graduate assistant is underway.

Veydt was initially unaware of the Center as an undergraduate, but said it has become much more of a presence at Point Park over the years.

“When I talk about the Center, people aren’t like ‘Oh, what’s that,’” McSweeney said. “They know what it is. They just aren’t 100% sure what we do.”

Since its creation in 2011, the Center has brought a plethora of sports and entertainment industry professionals to Point Park’s campus. Play-by-play announcers, vice presidents, CEOs, directors, coordinators and other professionals with skills across the board have educated the student body.

“You’re not going to get that at other colleges or universities,” Paylo said.  “You’re just not. Especially one of our size.”

Schall encourages student engagement with speakers to further the experiences.

“Pick their brains and get to know them because you never know who may help you down the road,” Schall said.

The events sponsored by the Center offer real world information that would not get in a classroom. The professionals give their realistic take on the industry rather than a by-the-book description, according to senior public relations and advertising student and Student Advisory Board member Emily Miller.

McMillan explained the educational values behind the speakers.

“When you get to college as a freshman or sophomore, you have a general idea of what you want to do but you can’t possibly know all the things that are involved in that particular business,” McMillan said.

The presentations show students the layers behind a job title, jobs behind the scene and a peek behind the curtain of how a business is run, according to McMillan.

“The students seem to really enjoy it,” McMillan said. “You can come up with an idea and it could even be a great idea if you bring these people to campus, but if the students don’t get anything out of it then it didn’t really work. But I think we’ve seen that both from individual feedback we’ve heard and kids being inspired to learn about careers and that’s why it’s been a success and that’s very pleasing to us.”

Multiple students owe their success to the Center.

Senior SAEM student and Student Advisory Board member Casey McGaw previously interned with the Tri-City Valleycats, Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins. McGaw will add “Harrisburg Senators Game Entertainment Intern” to her resume following the summer of 2017.

McSweeney began her success story with Perfect Game USA as an on-site merchandise intern, and she will return this coming summer as a manager of on-site merchandise. McSweeney also interned for the Pittsburgh Penguins as an inside sales representative, and now works as a guest services intern for the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

Miller said if it weren’t for the Center, she probably would not be at Point Park. She will intern with Perfect Game USA as a sales and merchandise intern this upcoming summer. Schall believed if he had not made the initial connection with McMillan, he would not have his current position.

Veydt expressed her gratitude towards the Center for building her self-confidence.

“The Center gave me a lot of confidence,” Veydt said. “Coming into it I wanted to make it my own, take it for what it was and do more. It gave me the confidence that you can do anything you set your mind to, and it definitely gave me the confidence to just put myself out there.”

The list goes on.

“The success rates of students involved with the Center has increased, which makes us able to give the students more opportunities,” McGaw said. “We’re getting more people at events; we’re growing with the types of events we’re bringing on campus.”

Center members agree they have been exposed to more contacts than they could have imagined.

“Tom and Mike alone, those are two of the most influential people in my life I think thus far, especially in regards to my career,” Veydt said. “I learn from them every day without them even knowing.”

Come December, the Center will possess almost an entirely new board. Graduating seniors will make room for new students to get involved, according to McSweeney.

Paylo hopes to see more majors represented in the Center in the years to come.