Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the fall 2016 issue of Concordian, the official magazine of Concordia University Wisconsin. View a PDF version of the magazine here.

Concordia University Wisconsin is putting a full court press on experiential learning opportunities for students in the sport and entertainment business program.

Along with the fun of touring locker rooms, visiting front offices, and snapping selfies from the fields of the most well-known arenas in the nation, students are rolling up their sleeves to work internships throughout the country and in Canada at the most renowned events in sports.

For the students in the School of Business Administration’s largest program—and Concordia’s fastest growing program over the past three years—some of those events have included the NFL Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto, and the 2016 Summer Olympics with NBC Sports.

“The industry of sport and entertainment business globally produces over $900 billion per year,” said JoeyLynn Bialkowski, director of the department of sport and hospitality business at CUW. “The layers of this industry are vast, and we educate our students to understand the areas within those layers that are needed to make events, iconic teams, or well-known brands a reality.”

In 2010, CUW began offering classes to business students who had interest in careers in the sport and entertainment realm. Bialkowski was working at another university at the time, but was recruited to CUW to turn what was then a sport and recreation minor into a major program offering. She has shepherded the program from its start.

Professor Joey-Lynn Bialkowski and alumni Joe Rawlings.

All-Access: Joe Rawlings (’16)

Joe Rawlings, recent alumnus of CUW, attributes his early career success in the sport industry to his experience in the sport and entertainment business program.

“My professors introduced me to an industry that uncovered a passion of mind for sports business,” said Rawlings.

He never thought that what he’s accomplished in the world of sports would be possible. Rawlings said he’s developed tools that he can use for the rest of his life.

“During my senior year, I wanted to go out with a bang,” said Rawlings. “I decided to apply for an internship position working with the NFL, assisting in the planning and marketing of Super Bowl events, and I land it.”

Rawlings interned in San Francisco for Super Bowl 50 last February, just a few months before walking across the commencement stage. After graduation, Rawlings was hired as a sales associate for the Milwaukee Bucks.

A couple years later, the School of Business Administration decided to begin offering sport and entertainment business classes at CUAA. This was before Wisconsin and Ann Arbor had officially become one university; what they did to align the curriculum and offer a new program hadn’t been done before, said Bialkowski.

Bialkowski used video streaming capability from Wisconsin to Ann Arbor in the beginning stages of the program when only a handful of students were enrolled in the classes.

Not long after, Bialkowski embarked on a new professional lifestyle to do everything she could to continue momentum on both campuses, building a solid foundation for programs that had vast potential to grow rapidly. Bialkowski rotated her location every two weeks between Wisconsin and Ann Arbor, video conferencing classes back and forth.

Today, the SEB program at Wisconsin is as booming as its industry.

A few years have passed since those first classes were held in 2010, and SEB is now one of CUW’s most populated programs. Bialkowski attributes the success of the program to advisory board guidance and strategy, dedicated faculty on both the Wisconsin and Ann Arbor campuses, and strong relationships to industry professionals.

“The School of Business Administration preaches the power of networking to our students in every program,” said Bialkowski. “It is because of a series of networking connections that SEB has been able to partner with companies that are global leaders in sports travel and event management.”

From the fan and hospitality experience of the NCAA Final Four and College World Series to the blue carpet of the Wisconsin Sports Awards, Concordia students are not only having experiences of a lifetime, but they’re gaining practical knowledge and application that they can include on their résumés, giving them an advantage over other applicants for future internship and career opportunities.

“The students challenge me every day. Selfishly, they keep me young, but more than that I have to remain current in this vocation that I love, so that the information I’m sharing with them is credible,” said Bialkowski, adoringly known by her students as “Professor B.”

In addition to SEB, Bialkowski also chairs the hospitality and event management (HEM) program at both Concordia University in Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. HEM is another industry that produces billions of dollars annually. Both SEB and HEM will often intersect, as do their industries, giving students complete perspective of the vast career opportunities in these fields.

“From human resource management and compliance within hospitality and sport organizations to the facility, fan zones, and food and beverage experiences, the list goes on forever on all of the different facets that students need to be aware of,” said Bialkowski. “Our program is a very comprehensive curriculum spanning all those areas of specialization.”

Bialkowski says that while comprehensive curriculums and internships are preparing students for their careers in sport, it is the mission of Concordia and development taking place in mind, body, and spirit that’s preparing students for careers as Christian leaders.

Concordia students’ demonstration of strong character, responsibility, and professionalism at various internships has impressed industry professionals so much that the opportunities for students continue to increase.

“The phone rings and I think, ‘Where are our students going now?’” said Bialkowski. “Every decision I make as the director and chair of this program is to enhance students’ learning, opportunities, and the pathways and pipelines that will lead them to achieve their professional goals and aspirations.”

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at kali.thiel@cuw.edu or 262-243-2149.

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