“I feel that having this knowledge will help me tremendously as I pursue a career in the sports industry. I now have a much stronger understanding of the challenges surrounding ethics, leadership, and diversity” — Clara Le Fur, Graduate, Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program
Clara Le Fur French resident Clara Le Fur spent some time in Boston with her mom last June, after having earned the Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate from UConn.
Overseas? No Problem!
As a native of France with a passion for sports, Clara Le Fur wanted to study in the United States – an impossibility considering that she was already in graduate school in Paris. So she did an online search and found the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) Leadership & Diversity Online Graduate Certificate program. The information and new skills she acquired were put to good use this past year, as she wrote her Master’s thesis
Clara Le Fur loves being a student. Currently, she’s in graduate school at the IESEG School of Management in Paris, France. She’s pursuing a double degree in business administration, specializing in auditing and control, along with a Master’s of Science in International Negotiation. She hopes to apply her education to the field of sport management, her true passion in life.
“I knew I wanted to work in the sports industry,” says Clara. “But we don’t have a university system with great sports teams like they do in the U.S. The system here is much less developed. I also wanted to learn more about the differences between the U.S. and Europe. When I found UConn’s website, I immediately saw that the university is world renowned for sports and academics. Plus, what really caught my attention was the program’s focus on diversity. I recognized that earning the certificate would enhance my ability to get a great job in the sports arena.”
No time or distance barriers to success
Clara started the program in May 2017, completing all four courses in May 2018. Being able to participate in an asynchronous online program was the key to her success. In fact, thanks to the structure of the HuskyCT/Blackboard online platform, Clara didn’t find the six-hour time difference difficult to deal with at all. As she explains: “At the time, I was in two master’s programs. So the fact that I could do my coursework at my own pace and on my own time was fantastic. Surprisingly, despite my being 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, I felt very connected to the university and to the other students in the class. I would say it was even more interactive than in a regular traditional class setting.”
As Clara notes, her professors placed students in situations in which they had to engage in real conversations and share information about themselves. “I didn’t feel like anyone was keeping things to themselves; everyone shared and that gave me a real sense of belonging,” she says.
The diversity portion of the program especially hit home for Clara, who played soccer for six years, with her final year at a national level in France. “I remember being surprised that while the women’s national team was getting better and better, people at my school would make disparaging comments about girls playing soccer.”
Learning to juggle
While it was a tough year for Clara juggling two Master’s degrees along with the certificate program coursework, she drew upon the knowledge and leadership skills she learned while writing her Master’s thesis. The goal of her research was to examine the relationship between players’ salary increases and their performance on the field in the context of professional soccer, specifically the Italian Serie A, a highly competitive soccer league. As Clara says: “Writing my thesis added knowledge to the current literature. Although I did not find evidence that salary increases had a significant impact on players’ performance, as a result of the model I developed, variables I used such as absolute players’ salaries and ages were considered significantly responsible for players’ performance. This confirmed the positive relationship previously found by other scholars.
“But most importantly, my thesis is opening doors to study salary increases as a potential factor for players’ performance in the future. It is also offering insights for managers in sport about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation linked to individual performance. Indeed, pay structures and compensation instruments are used to reinforce someone’s motivation to perform, but nevertheless, not everyone is motivated solely by monetary rewards, as there are other extrinsic sources of motivation, as well as the existence of intrinsic motivations.”
In conclusion, Clara says: “I feel that having this knowledge will help me tremendously as I pursue a career in the sports industry. I now have a much stronger understanding of the challenges surrounding ethics, leadership, and diversity. The way I look at my future as a manager in sport management was definitely influenced by the program. I know it will add a great deal to my resume, especially having the experience of studying ‘in’ the U.S. and learning about its sports culture.”
“When I saw the program on the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) website, it really caught my eye. I grew up in Connecticut, so the UConn name is a powerful brand to me. After finishing the program this past spring, I can honestly say that it was excellent—absolutely fantastic! I would highly recommend this program to anyone in a leadership role within the sport management industry” — John Bennett, Graduate, Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program
John Bennett remembers working on his final project for the Leadership & Diversity program at the same time his new baby, Camden, was born. Here he is at home this past Father’s Day with Camden and big brother Duke—the spitting image of dad!
When John Bennett registered for the Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program, he never imagined that he’d form such strong connections with his classmates. After all, the courses were held online—wouldn’t that mean everyone would work independently? Absolutely not, says John! He felt more involved with the online students than many of his classmates in the “brick and mortar” courses he attended during his undergraduate and graduate school days. And he’s been able to take what he learned and apply it to his job as Director of Student Engagement at Manhattan College.
Getting formal training in leadership is especially important for someone like John Bennett, who oversees the offices of Student Development, Recreation and Intramurals, and Performing Arts at Manhattan College in the Bronx, NY. His responsibilities include overseeing a staff of seven full-timers, two graduate assistants, and numerous work study students. Together, he and his team execute all student-oriented events, working with an annual budget of $1.2 million.
“I’m always on the lookout for new courses and programs to attend,” says John, who took the first two courses of the Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program during the summer of 2016, followed by one in the fall and the final course in the spring of 2017. “When I saw the program on the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) website, it really caught my eye. I grew up in Connecticut, so the UConn name is a powerful brand to me. After finishing the program this past spring, I can honestly say that it was excellent—absolutely fantastic! I would highly recommend this program to anyone in a leadership role within the sport management industry.”
So why does he give the Leadership & Diversity program such high marks? Despite having both a B.A. and an M.A. in Counseling, John had never taken a single online course. His expectations were low to say the least. But as he notes, “Right from the beginning, I felt more connected with the online students than many of my classmates in the brick and mortar courses I’ve taken over the years.” As John explains, in the course held during the first 2016 summer session, EDLR 5360 – Leadership in Sport Organizations, he was assigned to work with a small group, the majority of whom ended up going through the program together. “We immediately exchanged contact information, and from that moment on, we helped each other out all year. We really got to know one another and felt like a real team. It was great to be with other like-minded go-getters!”
John also especially appreciated how the weekly modules were organized. “You knew when you had deadlines, so you could easily plan ahead. That enabled me to juggle the coursework around my job,” he says, and adds: “The professors were also always available and responsive. You would post a question or email them directly, and they’d get back to you right away.”
The material was inspiring too, says John. For example, in one of his classes, the students were required to view videos profiling Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia and author of the book, Let My People Go Surfing, a blueprint for creating all facets of responsible businesses. After getting a sense of Chouinard’s leadership style, they were asked to post responses to the instructor’s questions.
As John recalls, there was something about the Patagonia founder’s leadership style that struck a cord with him. “He talked about the idea that if you hire smart, independent people, it doesn’t matter if they take off during the day to go surfing for a few hours, as long as the work is done. They would be given the freedom, along with responsibility. It was such out-of-the-box thinking. I have tried to incorporate that type of thinking, along with many of the other concepts we learned about leadership and diversity, in my job here at Manhattan College. In fact, I’m finding that what I learned during the program relates directly to my work with students and athletes.”
Today, John is in high demand at the college, which he credits, in part, to his having earned the certificate. For example, he’s been helping the Athletic Department with its fundraising and marketing efforts. “I think that with my leadership skills in the sport management arena, the Athletic Department sees me as an asset to them,” he says and notes: “The training I got in the program has helped me immensely. I can now better see and understand what our student athletes go through every day. I find that I’m not so quick to jump to conclusions. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to step back and take in the information first. You just never know what the students are really going through.”
In conclusion John says, “This program is all about helping you develop strong leadership skills and diversity awareness, especially in developing the sensitivity to treat all people fairly and equitably. I cannot stress enough how highly I recommend this program. I had an incredible bond with the professors and my cohort of students. To this day, I still wish the program weren’t over!”
“I highly recommend this program to anyone in the sport management field who is looking to strengthen their leadership skills. Or if you’re seeking a new position, having this credential will be a great addition to your resume. The education I received was enormously helpful when I was with MIT and is now an integral part of the leadership style I’m taking with me to Wellesley College.” — Lauren Haynie, Graduate, Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program
Lauren Haynie is taking the skills she developed at UConn—
and fine-tuned on the job at MIT—to her new position
at Wellesley College.
Making of a Leader
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for having an exceptionally diverse student population. But as Lauren Haynie points out, MIT’s goal is to be a universal model of what a truly inclusive academic community looks, feels, and acts like. So when Lauren discovered the Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Connecticut (UConn), she recognized that earning the certificate would help her cultivate important leadership skills to support MIT’s mission to “advance a respectful and caring community that embraces diversity and empowers everyone to learn and do their best.”
After having worked in athletic training for more than a decade, Lauren Haynie was hired as Special Assistant to the Athletic Director at MIT in 2013. A few months later, she decided to seek additional training of some kind that would help fine-tune her leadership style to be more compassionate, empathetic, and sensitive to the importance of advancing MIT’s diverse and welcoming culture. As she says, “Being inclusive has always been a major part of my life and it’s a value that I wanted to continue working on as a leader.”
She found exactly what she was looking for on the National Association for Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators’ website. “I saw a banner ad on the site about UConn’s Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program. It piqued my curiosity. When I clicked on the link and realized I could take all but one course in the summer, I was totally sold,” says Lauren. “The fact that the program was offered by UConn, a world-renowned institution for both academics and athletics, was the frosting on the cake,” she adds.
Easy to get up to speed on HuskyCT/Blackboard.
Lauren started the program in the Spring of 2015. She then took two courses over that summer, completing the final course the following summer of 2016. The online nature of the courses didn’t faze her. During her college and graduate school years, she had taken several courses online, so she found it easy to get up to speed on the Husky CT Blackboard platform. “The asynchronous schedule was so convenient. And even when we had to collaborate with other students on various projects, it wasn’t a big deal because everyone was so committed to the program,” says Lauren.
That commitment also cultivated a strong sense of community, she notes. “If you think being in an online course means you’re off working somewhere in a vacuum, think again. For me, I felt a strong sense of connection with the other students, most of whom were in multiple courses with me. We were all encouraged to talk about ourselves, both from a professional and personal basis. It was so helpful listening to other students share the challenges they faced in their jobs.”
Initiating a “climate survey.”
Over the course of this past academic year, she had the opportunity to implement the ideas and practices she learned. “MIT is all about innovation and pushing the envelop—not just in technology, but also in designing recruitment and hiring strategies to create a pipeline of top-notch candidates. While we know we have a diverse student and student athlete population, we wanted to find out what we were doing well, what we could do better, and how we could enhance the experience of all student athletes,” notes Lauren, who adds: “One of the big takeaways from the program is very basic: while you may not be able to treat everyone equally, you can treat everyone equitably. Diversity is coming, whether we are prepared for it or not. I truly believe that as a leader, being proactive is far more effective than being reactive.”
Toward this end, Lauren and her supervisor decided to initiate a “climate survey.” One of the goals was to assess whether varsity students feel a sense of belonging in terms of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity, among other factors. “Sure, we think we’re inclusive, but the evidence has been all antidotal. So our objective was to obtain baseline data that would help us determine if there were glaring problems, if our athletes and coaches needed additional training in diversity, or if there were other actions we needed to take.”
Implementing learnings to strengthen diversity.
Working closely with her colleagues in her department, Lauren helped develop and implement the survey. With results in hand, MIT’s Athletic Department is now putting together a framework for implementing many of the learnings from the survey in order to intentionally strengthen diversity throughout the department. “For example, we found that we need to wordsmith our job descriptions to provide more inclusive language. And we discovered that we need to cast a wider net to make sure our job postings are listed where a more diverse pool of candidates will see them,” Lauren explains.
So why does diversity matter so much to Lauren and to MIT? As she explains, “MIT attracts the best and the brightest. Those students need to feel supported on a personal level, especially since our college years are often a volatile time of self-discovery. Cultivating an inclusive, supportive environment fosters excellence—in the classroom and on the field. I also believe that when people feel comfortable and accepted throughout their college years, those individuals are more willing to advocate for the university—as active alumni who give back in terms of volunteer time and philanthropic support. And being more deliberate in hiring women and ethnic minorities also helps in applying for National Collegiate Athletic Association grants.”
New certificate credential, new job!
There was another big benefit that came out of Lauren earning the certificate credential. This summer, she is staring a new job as Senior Association Director of Athletics and Physical Education, Recreation, and Athletics at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. “Following through on earning the certificate demonstrates that I am willing to take on new challenges to develop more effective leadership skills and diversity awareness. I think that had a big impact on my getting the job,” she says.
As Lauren concludes: “I highly recommend this program to anyone in the sport management field who is looking to strengthen their leadership skills. Or if you’re seeking a new position, having this credential will be a great addition to your resume. The education I received was enormously helpful when I was with MIT and is now an integral part of the leadership style I’m taking with me to Wellesley College.”