Global Sport Management (GSM), a new masters-level program that Pfeiffer University will offer in Charlotte beginning fall 2020, has begun accepting applications. The program aims to prepare students to hold leadership positions in the front offices of sports teams and organizations – and to thrive in the increasingly international environment of sports.
“We will help our students become passionate professionals who understand how sport works across borders and who are effective critical thinkers, leaders, and decision-makers,” said Mary Beth Chambers, the program’s founding director.
“At times, people in a sports organization who are hiring get frustrated because they have one position open and there are 300 people who are applying for the job. GSM will do the sports industry a real service by providing it with vetted, trained and ready students.”
The GSM way of preparing students will rest on three pillars: 1) applied, project-based learning, 2) an industry council of sports executives based in Charlotte and 3) domestic and international travel. Each GSM student must hold a valid passport.
The council’s members – Chambers intends to name several in the coming weeks – are known to her because between 2001 and 2018, she held marketing, sales or management positions at several organizations in Charlotte, including the Charlotte Checkers, USA Canoe/Kayak, and Raceworks. She also directed the Motorsport Management Program of Belmont Abbey College.
The council’s members will help Chambers link GSM’s students to project-based learning and networking opportunities at members’ sports teams and organizations in Charlotte. The goal will be forging meaningful connections for all involved.
“We are bringing people together on the industry council who care about developing the next generation of leaders, and who believe in our mission – to offer transformational experiences and professional growth to all involved,” Chambers said.
As part of a class, for example, students might help a sports team develop a sponsorship promotion or boost ticket sales, drawing on the feedback of the team’s management in the process. Students will gain mentors in Charlotte, and management will become acquainted with the talent they can hire down the line.
“I’m very excited about the GSM program,” Chambers said. “Charlotte’s a wonderful place for it to thrive because of all of the sports organizations that are here as well as the industries that support sports. There are huge opportunities for the students and for the companies alike.”
Chambers stressed that GSM is a “seated” program, as opposed to an online one. As such, students might take a class in the conference room at the offices of a sports organization, gaining the chance to meet managers in the process. They will network the old-fashioned way: by looking would-be employers in the eyes, shaking their hands and becoming acquainted through face-to-face conversation.
“Ultimately, that is what will enable them to get hired by a sports organization,” she said. “Sports is a very close-knit industry. It requires social capital. It requires that you know people, and have the executive skills and professional decorum to operate within a sport business context.”
As for travel, it will be a requirement of GSM’s curriculum. Students will participate in two trips – one domestic and one overseas. The domestic trip will take students to Colorado Springs, CO and will showcase the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee Training Center. During the trip, students will meet and learn from NGB leaders and Olympians about how the United States Olympic System differs from its global counterparts.
For the international trip, Chambers plans to take students to the United Kingdom, where they will meet the management of Wimbledon, tour Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and visit professional stadia in Manchester and London. In conjunction with workshops given by discipline experts on various iconic campuses such as Oxford, students will learn from sport executives about how sport is managed in the UK, and how the British Olympic Association differs from its American counterpart.
“Throughout the context of all of the classes we will be talking about global issues,” Chambers said. “If it’s the marketing class, for example, we will be talking about how sports marketing is globalizing.”
To illustrate what she meant, Chambers cited a recent trip to France by the executives of the Charlotte Hornets, who played the Milwaukee Bucks in Paris.
The Hornets’ executives “were helping promote Charlotte in France, trying to convince their French counterparts to come do business in Charlotte,” she said. “They were using sports to develop relationships because sports is a connector across all barriers.”
For more information about the program, visit pfeiffer.edu/gsm or contact: [email protected]
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform