This summer, Alli Leiva spent four weeks participating in the Wharton Sports Business Academy at the University of Pennsylvania. In a profession dominated by males, Alli was determined to leave her mark. During the summer, she learned from world-class professors, executives and peers from around the world. She also traveled throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, visiting professional sports franchises throughout the region. Throughout the program, she learned what it takes to be a woman in the sports world – learning from women who have made successful careers in the sports world. We caught up with Alli to discuss her experience and this is what we she had to say:
- How did you become interested in Sports and Sports Business? I grew up in a very sport-focused family. From a young age, my brother and I were encouraged try different sports and find our niche in the greater athletic community. Both of my parents believed in the benefits of sports and were big fans of local professional teams in almost every major sport. That passion for these activities and the love shown for professional teams carried over to my brother and I.
- Why did you choose the WSBA Program? When I was looking for a summer opportunity this past year I knew I wanted to achieve two things. I wanted to participate in a program that would focus on business, since that is my intended major for college, and I wanted to be on a college campus that could provide me with a range of different activities and experiences. The Wharton School of Business is one the best business schools in the world, so I knew I would be taught by top faculty; and the University of Pennsylvania is located in one of the largest cities in the United States and provides endless opportunities for people to explore. Obviously, my love for sports was the deciding factor for me when choosing to apply to WSBA. The WSBA program is unique in that not many classes, at the high school or college level, are able to focus on the business of sports. WSBA was unique in this.
- What were the highlights of the program for you? The highlight of the program for me was definitely being able to travel and visit with professionals in the sport industry. Meeting with executives at the Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, or the New York Red Bulls organizations is an opportunity that most high school students will never have; and interacting with the corporate side of these organizations was an experience that I would not have had as a normal spectator.
- What impressed you most about the curriculum? The most impressive aspect of the WSBA curriculum was that this content was the exact same content that is taught to undergraduate students at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Rosner taught us and treated us as though we were undergraduate students in his class. Having a professor that believed in our abilities and strived to teach us as much as possible was impressive and simply amazing.
- What was your favorite debate that you had with your fellow students throughout the program? One debate that occurred during the program was focused on the idea of team loyalty. Growing up as a New York Giants fan, I never felt a great loyalty to that team; thus, when the Indianapolis Colts drafted Andrew Luck in 2012, I switched my alliance to the Colts. This act of “betrayal” caused a stir among the class, which led to a great discussion on why people become loyal to certain teams and, more importantly, how teams and organizations are able to build that loyalty and retain a stable fan base.
- Were there any female speakers (on campus or on site visits) who inspired you to continue on the path to a career in sports? Jennifer Duberstein of CAA Sports was one presenter that really inspired me to stay involved in sports. Her experiences in the industry were unique as she as worked with clients all over the industry. The time she spent learning about broadcasting, endorsement deals, and athlete representation allowed her to share a great deal of knowledge with the WSBA program. The love she has for the industry and the success she has achieved have inspired me to continue following my passion for sports.
- What was the business that your group came up with? My team and I developed a product that we named “EyeCFit.” The concept of the product was a contact lens with implanted software that could detect your blood sugar levels, electrolyte levels, heart rate, and other vitals by reading your tear composition.
- How was it to work in a team to create a business plan? The best thing about the WSBA program was that every student was invested in learning and was eager to participate. In most group projects one or two students wind up taking on the bulk of the work, but at WSBA it was truly a collaborative process. All of my team members and I were determined to produce the best presentation and business plan because we were all genuinely interested in the subject.
- What was it like to live on campus and be a part of a sports business program as a female? As a female that loves sports I have always felt as though my opinions are not taken as seriously and my interest in the field is seen as over ambitious or unrealistic. However, the WSBA program eradicated these feelings and showed me that my desire to be in sports business was possible. Every member of the program (the RTA’s, other students, the speakers, and Professor Rosner) valued my knowledge and took me seriously throughout the four weeks at UPenn. The way I was treated and the experiences I had on campus in no way made me feel like I was being discriminated against because of my gender. Sports affect everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or any other discriminating factor, and that truth was carried out in the WSBA program.
- Would you recommend this for other female participants? If so, why? I would highly encourage other young females to participate in the program. WSBA is a great opportunity for women to explore the field of sports and learn more about business concepts. Regardless of whether or not you want to work in sports, WSBA taught me so much about teamwork, marketing, and management, while allowing me to discuss and debate something that I love.
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