Women in Sport Management Leadership Panel Encourages Female Students to Get Involved

More than 75 community members came to the Regency Athletic Complex for the third annual Women in Sport Management Leadership Panel on February 6.

A myriad of students attended the event – ​​male and female athletes, current and former students, those involved in the sports management department and those not. All arrived to hear what women who have been involved in the industry had to say about who their idols are, how they got to where they are, and what makes a good candidate to apply for jobs.

The event was organized by Kelly Evans, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Performance and Sport, along with Colleen Colles, another professor who has led the effort with this event the previous two years.

“It all started with it being nice to have role models for women in the industry so they could see themselves in that position because it tends to be biased towards men,” said Glues. “It’s not exclusively for women though – it’s meant to be diverse so that as many students as possible can walk away with information that helps them in the career they want to pursue.”

MSU Denver is especially proud of its female leaders, said Jen Capps, dean of the College of Professional Studies.

“The president of MSU Denver is a woman. Our provost is a woman. All of our deans are also women,” Capps said. “It’s something very unique about the university.”

This year’s panelists included Pam Dunbar, director of rugby team marketing for the Colorado Raptors; Jodie Bowness, vice president of ticket sales and service for the Colorado Avalanche; Sarah Hulsman, public relations representative for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee; Paula McLain, Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association of Colorado; and Nancy Svoboda, executive vice president of human resources for the Denver Broncos.

All panelists brought varying levels of experience in their fields to advise students. The questions were led by Maricela Shukie, vice president of Forward Progress Athletics Consulting. Shukie also shared her insights when relevant.

Dunbar talked about the obstacles that existed when she started and what it looks like today.

“There are definitely still barriers. It continues to be a male-dominated stage. I feel like the next generation was raised by great moms,” Dunbar said. “We all have lives, strengths and struggles. For women, the most difficult thing is to have a voice.

Dunbar said several of the men who reported to her made more money, despite being in a lower position. She said at the time that she needed to step up and be respected for her position.

Many other panelists shared similar sentiments.

“Find a voice,” Bowness said. “Speak for what is right. Don’t look for excuses.

McLain said you can choose to have it all if you put your heart into it.

The panelists also answered questions from the audience. They explored topics such as whether it is more useful to pursue higher education or seek experience in internships and jobs. Svodoba said she got her master’s degree in her 40s and said the experience was better at the end. McLain said she was looking for a job with education reimbursements to have the best of both worlds.

Sarah Hulsman speaks with a student before the start of the Leadership Panel on Managing Women in Sport at the Cohen Center for Athletics on February 6.

In the end, the main piece of advice they all gave was the importance of making contacts in the industry.

After the panel, the students stayed to thank the panelists and the network. Alexis Benda, special education specialist and player on the MSU Denver volleyball team, was grateful for everything the panelists had to say.

“It was a lot about being yourself and having a voice to speak out, even in awkward situations,” Benda said. “My favorite subject was all the advice they gave, because they were in the same shoes once.”

Sports management specialist and former baseball player Matt Zaleski found the event insightful and progressive.

“Obviously the topic was to develop the next generation of women in sport. As a man there were a lot of inclusive experiences shared. That says a lot about the progress,” Zaleski said. “I also have a lot liked how they insisted that it wasn’t about a woman being good at her job – it was just about being good at her job.”

Zaleski enjoyed hearing how the panelists all took different paths and still found themselves in their positions, and took their advice on networking as a young professional to heart, he said.

After the panel, Hulsman explained why she decided to join the discussion and what she hopes attendees will take away from the event.

“I graduated in 2015, so I’m still pretty new to all of this. It feels like I was at their post yesterday, but it’s actually been five years,” she said. “If there was a takeaway that I hope they go away with, I want them to just go to individuals in the industry. Everyone is ready to talk to students. And I hope that they realize that people support them until the end.

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