Jason Williams, EdD
Students As Game Changers
When Jason Williams, EdD, assistant professor and director of the Rawlings Sport Business Management Program, teaches a class it often has the giddy buzz of a game day event, or a successful post-season wrap-up or perhaps a locker room pep talk. But students also describe their engagement as serious boardroom conferencing, or in terms of the “break room of an organization … where employees talk about the concepts and theories behind the organization.” How would students know that?
Maryville senior Joann Thompson knows about break rooms because she’s been in a few as a colleague. Thompson has enjoyed internships with the Philadelphia 76ers and Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc., and numerous volunteer experiences with organizations such as the St. Louis Cardinals. “Jason Williams encourages debate and group discussions,” Thompson said. “While there are times where he needs to lecture to make sure we get a certain piece of information, he spreads those days out. He wants to keep us engaged in debates and discussions.”
“I don’t like routine, it puts me to sleep,” Williams said. “We’re constantly taking on new opportunities and challenges.” His students are prepared to hit the ground running after graduation because their skills address the hiring needs of the industry, he said. Williams knows precisely which key skills put students in the game because he constantly talks with employers. Also, the program’s advisory board includes representatives from “all walks of sport and business, including corporate sponsorship, product development, marketing, sports agencies and sales,” he said.
“Professor Williams focuses on the big picture, he doesn’t just want you to learn the material to get an A on a test,” says senior Chad Bachmann. “He wants you to take what you learn in the classroom and use it in the real world.”
Top industry leaders not only speak to Williams’ classes, they roll up their sleeves and join small group discussions with students, both to share expertise and gain perspective. Kurt Hunzeker, senior director of brand marketing for Rawlings, worked with students this spring to develop marketing ideas for a new baseball promotion. He’s impressed with the caliber of thinking Maryville students bring to the table.
“They laser in and ask all the right questions,” Hunzeker said. “They’re clicking on all cylinders.”
“How do students develop a skill until they do it? Industry doesn’t value those who haven’t done it,” Williams said.
“Besides, when partnerships develop, it seems like fun stuff always comes out of it.”
Along with Rawlings, Williams has established partnership opportunities with the St. Louis Cardinals, the St. Louis Blues, the St. Louis Rams, the Missouri Valley Conference and Reactor Watch Co., among others.
“We’re working toward having multiple corporate partners in every class,” Williams said. “Students love it. They can see the correlation between what they’re doing and the industry. Because of the relationships we have and the skills our students learn, they leave the program with a degree from a well-respected name in the industry.”
Senior Matthew Pierson said simply by attending classes and doing the required work, he’s gained real world experience in marketing, sales and professionalism. “The opportunity for a student to gain experience and credits at the same time is what sets Maryville’s program apart from any other in the nation,” he said.