Maryville University’s Rawlings Sport Business Management program celebrates 10 years of partnership with Rawlings Sporting Goods
If a strong partnership is defined as including the exchange of meaningful knowledge, shared goals and a strong element of mutual benefit, then the Rawlings Sport Business Management program is a prime example. In 2008, the sport business management program at Maryville University was established as part of the John E. Simon School of Business. But in 2013, the program made a change that would significantly impact its current and future students: it became the Rawlings Sport Business Management (RSBM) program, the first corporately named sport business management program in the country.
The partnership between the program and Rawlings wasn’t born overnight. Years before anything became official, Jason Williams, EdD, program director and assistant dean of the John E. Simon School of Business, put into practice what is taught to the program’s students: make connections and take chances. Williams met with a senior vice president at Rawlings and asked, “What may our students be able to help with that you don’t have the time or resources for as an organization?”
This question paved the way for a strong, multi-layered partnership with Rawlings. At the time, the sporting goods company was getting into the football helmet business. So Williams sent over a list of football coaches he knew and began conducting research for them. From there, the relationship grew. Rawlings was the official internship provider for a collegiate football all-star game, and they asked the sport business management program to provide them with interns for the event, marking the beginning of many similar opportunities to come.
In 2013, Maryville and Rawlings made things official: the program became the Rawlings Sport Business Management program. The partnership was celebrated with a ceremony at Busch Stadium, with St. Louis Cardinals President William DeWitt III in attendance. “We are excited to see two of our great partners joining forces to prepare the next generation of sport business leaders,” DeWitt said of the partnership.
“We began working together simply by doing things that helped each other’s business,” Williams said. “A decade later, we’re still providing high-quality research assistance to Rawlings as well as volunteers and interns, and they continue to work closely with our students to help them develop job-ready skills and professionalism.”
Today, the partnership is stronger than ever: some Rawlings executives are adjunct professors in the program, and others are guest speakers for classes. They offer career development opportunities, including internships specifically developed for Maryville students. They also provide gear and equipment for the University’s softball and baseball programs. But the partnership isn’t just beneficial for Maryville and its RSBM students — it’s mutually beneficial. In addition to research projects and internships, fourth-year students present marketing projects to executives at Rawlings with recommendations for enhancing their brand presence in the marketplace each year. Countless Maryville students have interned with Rawlings over the past 10 years, with many hired full time after graduation. “Rawlings has benefited from our strong partnership with Maryville in myriad ways, from receiving professional-level product and brand research and invaluable support at industry events to having direct access to the most talented students for internship and full-time positions,” said Ron Ostrowski, president of Rawlings.
A Name with Impact
For prospective students, the named program has made a difference when researching schools and sport business programs. “There were other sport business programs I was looking into, but having the Rawlings name attached to Maryville’s program made it stand out,” said Russell Susuki, ’18. “Knowing how closely they work together on partnerships and opportunities for students really gave the program a higher level of appeal for me.” Susuki’s first introduction to the program came via the Rawlings Sport Business Management Summer Institute. The week-long summer program gives prospective students an inside look at the program and Maryville. Participants spend a day each with program partners like Rawlings, the Missouri Valley Conference, the St. Louis Sports Commission and the St. Louis Cardinals. “It was a great opportunity for me to learn about and be introduced to the sport business industry, the program and Maryville in general,” Susuki said. “Seeing their partnerships was impressive to me, and the idea of interning or possibly working for Rawlings was exciting.”
If you ask program alum Lucas Winkelmann, ’18, if the Rawlings partnership made an impact on his decision to enroll in the program, the answer is a resounding yes. “I didn’t think a company like Rawlings would put their name on a program that didn’t deserve it,” he said. “It adds a lot of credibility to the program.” For Winkelmann, the impact of the Rawlings partnership has been instrumental to both his education and career path. He began as an intern at Rawlings during his time as a student in the program. Now, Winkelmann is an associate national account manager in the ecommerce division at Rawlings. “As an intern, I learned a lot about their culture and their day-to-day work,” he said. “I was able to make connections with employees who were able to speak on my behalf when I applied for a full-time position at Rawlings.” During his time as a student, Winkelmann had the opportunity to speak to prospective high school students about the RSBM program. “I could see it in their faces and their parents’ faces that the program being sponsored carries a lot of weight.”
Connections Beyond the Classroom
The RSBM program prides itself on its connections. In addition to the strong partnership with its namesake, Williams and program faculty have developed relationships with other organizations in the sports industry — like the Missouri Valley Conference, the St. Louis Cardinals, Peak Sports, Anheuser-Busch and many other industry organizations.
“The sport business industry is our classroom,” Williams said. Through these partnerships, there are countless opportunities for RSBM students to volunteer and intern while earning their degree. This year alone, RSBM students had more than 50 volunteer opportunities within the sports industry.
For alum Shelby Hild, ’15, the experience she gained through the RSBM program is invaluable. “As a 19-year-old, I had so much experience in the industry,” she said. “I felt like I had a leg up on other job candidates who didn’t have that type of experience upon graduating.” Fourth-year student Donnie Fox, who has had five different internships throughout his time in the program, agrees. “From the volunteer opportunities provided through the program, you build your resume up and become a really attractive intern candidate,” he said. “It makes you competitive.”
The program has gained a solid industry reputation, and not just among prospective or current students. “Organizations across the country know about the program and the high quality of its students and graduates,” Susuki said. “They know that Maryville graduates will be prepared to work in the sports industry and will be well-rounded professionals.”
A Bright Future
Williams’ goal for the future of the program is to continuously change as the industry changes so that its students graduate with industry-relevant skills. “We want to build even more opportunities and connections for our students to help them build those skills,” he said. In reflecting on the first 10 years of the Rawlings partnership, Williams is most proud of building something between three special entities: Maryville University, Rawlings and the sport business management program. Through their partnership, each is better than they are on their own. “It’s truly a partnership where both organizations benefit, and most importantly, so do our students,” said Williams. Ostrowski added, “We’ve accomplished so much together over the past 10 years, and we’re looking forward to the program’s continued growth and success for years to come.”