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Monday, May 23, 2022

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Jenn Gerdes (SMBA ‘20) Jenn Gerdes (SMBA ‘20)

Sports MBA Valedictorian Shares Graduate Journey

Jenn Gerdes (SMBA ‘20) speaks about the program’s international case study trip to the Dominican Republic and the opportunity to network with alumni.
By Fowler College of Business News Team

In late May, the San Diego State University Sports MBA (SMBA) program in the Fowler College of Business held its virtual graduation celebration for the Class of 2020. 

During the virtual celebration, Jenn Gerdes (SMBA ‘20) was honored as Class of 2020 SMBA valedictorian. The Fowler College of Business News Team connected with Gerdes to learn about her graduate school journey and why she chose to enroll in SDSU's Sports MBA program.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from and where did you get your undergrad degree? 

I grew up in a small rural town in Northern California. Wanting to experience something very different from that, I chose to move across the country to New York for college. I attended NYU, where I studied sociology.

After completing your bachelor’s degree, you worked in the Middle East. What influenced you to move there, and what were some highlights of that experience?

I leaped at the chance to move to Abu Dhabi after college because of the opportunity and adventure ahead. NYU Abu Dhabi was about to welcome its first class of students from around the world to attend NYU’s first international four-year degree-granting campus and I was offered a position to help shape the student experience. What started as a one-year commitment lasted six; the opportunity to learn something new every day was just too great to pass up and I loved being a part of a start-up. Personally, the ability to travel the world and the incredible group of friends I made while living there have left a lifelong impact on me.

What made you choose the SDSU Sports MBA program?

After working in international higher education for eight years, I was ready for my next career adventure. Once I decided to pursue a career in sports business, I started researching graduate programs and found the SDSU Sports MBA program to be the most compelling. Two of the major reasons, in addition to the strong ranking of the program, were the networking opportunities and the flexibility that the MBA degree would afford me in the future. 

Through the SMBA program, I've connected with alumni across the country, volunteered at countless events in Southern California, and attended conferences and symposiums, all of which have greatly enhanced my network. In terms of the MBA, while I’m currently focused on pursuing a career in sports business, I’m always looking for the next challenge. If in 10 years I want to switch careers again, I don't want to feel like I have to get another graduate degree to do that. Having the solid business foundation of an MBA degree will serve me well wherever life takes me. 

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the program? 

I know I’m not alone in saying that our international case study trip to the Dominican Republic was a highlight for me. During the trip, we visited a number of MLB academies, the league offices, volunteered with community organizations, and even spent a day with Sandy Alderson. Personally, I was really impressed by all of the preparation we did leading up to the experience and how my time there served to deepen my understanding of the role and impact baseball has on the Dominican Republic from a multitude of perspectives. 

The Sports MBA program is known for its robust network of alumni. How have program alumni helped guide you or impacted your career?

I was really surprised at just how generous alumni have been with their time. They’ve provided pivotal advice like “focus on the job function you want over the specific sport or organization you hope to work for,” they have introduced me to colleagues in their network, and recommended me during the interview process at their company and with colleagues at other companies. Having now been through the program, the alumni network stands out to me as one of the strengths of the program.

You were able to volunteer for several local sports events while in the program. Did you have a favorite? 

I was able to be a part of so many great events that it’s hard to just pick one, so I’ll pick two: 
  • The Mexico Men’s National Team match versus Chile: I was able to shadow the Partnership Marketing team for two days, including during the match. It was great to see everything that went into servicing the partnerships on the tour.
  • The Steve Nash Foundation Charity Shield in Los Angeles: We had the opportunity to work with the Foundation’s executive director leading up to and during the event and she was exemplary of the type of leader I hope to be one day.
Any advice you would have for current and/or future Sports MBA students about making the most of their time?

The more you put into the program, the more you will get out of it. Certainly, this is the case with coursework, but it’s for everything outside of class. The more time, energy, and commitment you put into networking, volunteering, preparing for guest speakers, and taking on consulting projects, the closer you will get to your ultimate goal of working in sports.