Felicia Ganthier was part of Columbia’s graduating class of 2012, and joined World Wrestling Entertainment in 2019 after spending four years with the Madison Square Garden Company. She has also worked as assistant director, corporate and foundation relations at the Columbia Business School, and for the NHL’s New York Rangers.
Why did you choose to pursue a sports management postgraduate degree?
I did a sports management undergraduate degree as well, so I knew that this was my path and what I wanted to do with my life. I kind of fell into it but when I found out this was a job, that people can have fun and make money in sports, I was like, ‘sign me up!’ But I wanted to take the next step, and I knew I need to 1) build a deeper network bench, if you will, and 2) get more training and skills.
What attracted you to Columbia?
I figured, ‘if you’re going to do this, you might as well go Ivy!’ And they were willing to give me a chance. Coming out of high school, I never considered myself Ivy League material, but now that I’ve been in it for so long, both as a student and an employee, I realised it was accessible for me and it was something I was limiting in myself. They had just started the sports management programme and they were willing to give me a shot.
How did the course prepare you for working in the industry?
Through the network. I really didn’t understand that aspect of it when I started; I thought it was more based on the coursework and I thought it would be more like undergrad where I would just learn a tonne of things from the best and the brightest, because it’s Columbia. But I didn’t realise the value of the network that I was going to be a part of.
My instructors brought amazing guest speakers, whether it was [commissioner of the Big East Conference] Val Ackerman or [NHL commissioner] Gary Bettman. I also met Adam Silver just before he became the NBA commissioner. So it introduces you to the best in the industry, but it also gives you the network of people you’re studying with who go on to senior roles across the sector.
How does being a Columbia alum continue to impact your career?
It plays a huge role because it gives me leadership opportunities. I was selected to serve on the inaugural alumni leadership council, it was the first time I’d served on a board or anything like that but they tapped me up to wave the sports management flag and be the representative of the programme.
Opportunities like this and just speaking with current students and giving something back to them [has had a huge impact]. I had quite a circuitous route here, I was a student athlete and I didn’t transition well, but that was good – part of my journey with Columbia is coming back and talking to students and showing people that it’s okay to have messed up and have done different things, and that it may take you a long time to get to where you’re supposed to be.
Columbia opens doors. It gets you in the room, because of the cachet that comes with being a Columbia graduate. It won’t keep you in the room, but in this industry in particular, getting there is half the battle. So that’s huge, and that’s something that I’m keen to keep sharing with the Columbia community.
What advice would you give to someone starting the programme this year?
I would say: loosely plan. Because you never know what is going to pop up, and sometimes the unexpected journey, embracing the adventure, is how you get to where you want to go. Have an idea of what you want to do, but be flexible and open to new opportunities, because you never know where you are going to land.
And stay connected – with people in general, and with the Columbia community in particular. Read those alumni newsletters, go back for things, donate. It’s not necessarily about the amount that you give, but the fact that what you give supports the school and helps grow the programme.