In an industry built on connections, Ohio University’s Professional Master of Sports Administration (PMSA) student and alumni network serves as an outstanding launchpad for executives seeking to take their career to the next level, according to Josh Keiles, one of the industry’s rising stars.
In 2018, three years after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, and having secured a firm foothold in the sports industry by rising through the ranks to lead the National Sports Forum’s business development department, Keiles was looking for a competitive edge.
Like many ambitious professionals who are already working in the sector, Ohio University’s PMSA provided an enticing opportunity.
“During my two years with the NSF, I’d been privy to the power of the Ohio University network and also been able to develop some strong relationships with school faculty and alumni, several of whom are on the NSF Steering Committee,” Keiles says.
“I had long considered some type of post-secondary education. However, I was at the point in my career where I was getting in a nice groove in my professional life and the idea of taking time off to focus solely on school seemed more and more unrealistic the longer that I went in my career.”
The flexibility of the programme is a particular attraction for students, many of whom have been working in the sports business for several years.
For example, course leaders make a conscious effort to shift the bulk of the workload away from months and semesters in which a student already has significant work commitments in the industry. In addition, online resources are readily available, offering an adaptable solution to students based remotely or on the move in their day-to-day job.
The collaborative nature of the programme, with alumni encouraged to support students, ensures that valuable face-to-face connections are also established.
Scheduled in-person residencies, for example, bring together students four times each year to provide outstanding networking opportunities for like-minded peers, as well as a vital learning experience.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a school that does as much to help facilitate connections between students and alumni,” Keiles adds.
“Throughout the programme, the administration and alumni do such a great job drilling in the importance of giving back to those who came through the programme before them.
“As a result, it winds up being very easy to connect with and meet alumni at every turn.
“The ability to take a look at the Ohio University directory at any given time – and feel very confident that if you reach out to someone in there, they’re more than likely going to get back to you and give you some time to connect – is something that you can never take for granted, but you should absolutely take advantage of,” Keiles adds.
Keiles believes that the PMSA has taught him the value of mentorship in professional development – and how it goes hand-in-hand with continuing education.
Moreover, in an ever-expanding industry, being able to broaden horizons beyond a specific area of focus to encompass other knowledge strands is increasingly important.
“I’d say the biggest thing that the programme has helped with is exposing students to different areas within sports business that they may not be familiar with,” he says. “For me, in my role at the NSF, I focus on sponsorship, marketing, revenue generation and so on, but I’m not necessarily exposed to as much in operations and logistics, facilities, sports law, analytics and other areas. This programme helps to ‘even out’ that base of knowledge across the industry.”
Keiles is convinced that the PMSA will continue to provide the foundations that will help him to progress further in the sports sector.
“Moving forward in my career, I think this will serve me well. Ultimately, I’d like to wind up on the agency side, where I could work with various brands on developing their strategy for sports sponsorships. But I would be okay doing anything that allows me to continue to develop relationships across the industry, because at the end of the day, relationships are what it’s all about!”