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Changing the Game and Industry

As the Kraken, Climate Pledge Arena and OVG announce a groundbreaking partnership with Seattle U's Albers School of Business, an alum and our new arena's top marketing executive, Rosemary Selle, reflects on the hope of inclusion and access

by Rosemary Selle / @SeattleKraken / nhl.com/kraken

"I want to work in sports."

It's something those of us whose identities have been intrinsically tied to athletics-in my case volleyball-tell ourselves once the sneakers are hung up and we are released out into the real world. It is an effort to stay connected to our former selves. But what does it truly mean?

Sports and entertainment as an industry often feels illusive. Coveted entry-level positions or internships tend to be reserved for the fortunate few who have connections. Coming from a small liberal arts college, Carroll College in Helena, MT (Go Saints!), I realized in the big city of Seattle that I didn't have those ties. What I did bring with me is a passion for the business of sport and just as much passion for learning.

Seattle University represented my path through its Masters of Sports Administration and Leadership program, which I credit as my initiation into a sports career. My courses and professors provided a solid foundation of the sports business and the program offered real-world opportunities to network and provided a proving ground that rewarded students who delivered professional-grade work. That access was a game-changer for me.

The Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University announced its partnership Thursday with the Kraken, Mariners, Storm, Sounders FC, Seahawks, Oak View Group and Climate Pledge Arena to provide fellowships for students, scholarships for BIPOC students and job opportunities with the local sports franchises, Climate Pledge Arena and other OVG projects. The dream? Expand the access, multiply the game-changers, be a leader in helping the sports and entertainment industry to be more inclusive, diverse and equitable.

The Seattle U curriculum will build on its already strong sports management courses with input from the local teams, plus add classes and field work covering venue management and operations, venue sustainability for sports organizations and music/entertainment tours, DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) initiative and standing for anti-racism in sports, entertainment and arena and stadium management.

My first professional foray into the world of sport was with the Seattle Sports Commission, for which I was able to put to use my research from my final SU thesis (host-city economic benefits of large sporting events). Next, I dove into arena and event marketing, working under the same iconic roof at Seattle Center where the newly named Climate Pledge Arena will open this fall.

Those early steps might appear to be what people looking to enter the industry consider "working in sports." But my near decade of experience has ranged farther and wider through events such as the world's biggest E-Sport Championships (DOTA The International) to being part of opening arenas in Las Vegas and Montevideo, Uruguay. OK, sure, the decade included working on NCAA March Madness, too, but it turned into much more than sports.

I found my true passion in marketing the world's biggest performers like Elton John, Adele and Rihanna. I know one thing, I have been bitten by the events bug, whether it be sports or music or family shows.

Seattle U's reinvention into the Sport and Entertainment Management MBA program with a focus on DEI will feature a formal imperative to provide opportunity for those who have neither connection nor fortune, especially students of color. As a grateful alum and vice president of marketing for Climate Pledge Arena, the unprecedented partnership (the university, seven professional sports franchises, a brand-new world-class arena and the world's leading company in building sports and entertainment venues) gives me hope that more "working in sports" dreams will become reality for much broader cohorts of students.

It is exciting to see sustainability highlighted as we build the first net-zero carbon certified arena in the world. SU's program, along with mentors, will set up students for the next wave of jobs where the issue of tackling our planet's biggest challenges will be at the forefront. And we will continue harnessing the passion and power of live entertainment for good.

"The sport industry has a renewed call to action as it endeavors to increase diversity at all levels and in all segments," said Joseph Phillips, dean at the SU Albers School of Business. "Our program will make an important contribution to those efforts."

"This is the first multi-organizational approach in bringing meaningful sport involvement, experience and opportunities to a diverse audience," said Bill Sutton, board advisor to the new Seattle U MBA and founding director of the University of South Florida's Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program.

Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke, a man I know well and admire even more, summed up the hopes and dreams of the program perfectly: "We know that BIPOC and female leadership is lacking in our industry and with this program we have an exceptional opportunity to address this and instigate change. It is unprecedented to see so many organizations come together around one cause and we look forward to welcoming the inaugural class and seeing this program grow into a model around the world."

I could not be prouder to see my work family with the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena leading the charge to bring in strong diverse voices to the business of sport in our community and beyond. It's going to be life-changing.

Applications for the new SU program are now being accepted until May 15 at seattleu.edu/business/mba-sport-entertainment. Classes start at the end of June.

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