Interview with Jackie Wallgren
Name: Jackie Wallgren
Major, minor, and graduation year: Business Administration (major); Sport Management and Coaching (minors); Class of '07
Job Title: Assistant to the Commissioner
Organization/ Place of work: Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
You're an Assistant to the Commissioner, what does that entail? What are your duties or responsibilities?
-I assist in virtually all aspects of running a conference office. We administer championships in 20 sports, oversee the compliance with NCAA rules for all nine of our institutions, facilitate committee meetings, and we're currently in the middle of the WIAC's Centennial Celebration - we're celebrating our 100th anniversary during the 2012-13 academic year.
What are the highlights of your job that you enjoy most?
-I'm really enjoying the planning of the WIAC Centennial Banquet, which will occur in August 2012.We're hoping to have somewhere near 1,000 people, and the planning process that goes into getting that many people to do the same thing, in the same place, at the same time is complicated, but really interesting to me.I've always enjoyed piecing together a puzzle; this is a lot like that!
What are the challenges that you face with your job that are not enjoyable?
-With anything, there are going to be easy days and days that are harder. But honestly, the times that I find myself not enjoying my job are the days when I'm not busy. I'd much rather have a million things to do and (perhaps) not enough time to do them than to have a slow day.
How do you spend your work days? Do you spend a lot of time office/lab/meetings/outside/___?
-That's one thing I've enjoyed throughout my career in college athletics; I never really know what a day will hold. I might have a plan for the day, but you can bet that I end up doing something completely different! In a conference office, a lot of my time is spent at my desk, but I also get to spend time at championships, right in the midst of the action. I also spend a lot of time in meetings and on conference calls.
How did this type of job/field interest you and how did you get started?
-Honestly, I never even realized that this career field was an option until I was already a college student. I played on the women's soccer team at UW-Superior, and one day it kind of dawned on me that there were all of these people around me working to make it possible for me to practice and compete. I realized then that I'd like to be one of those people, and, as they say, the rest is history!
What qualifications did you need to obtain this job?
-There is certainly no one way to get into college athletics. Some people begin in coaching and then transition into administration. Many of us are former student-athletes ourselves. Others follow the route that I chose, which is to earn a master's degree in Sport Administration or Sport Management.
What personal qualities or abilities do you believe contribute most to success in this job/field?
-I learned a lot from being a student-athlete that made me successful in my career.I learned how to manage multiple commitments simultaneously, the value of hard work, and how to work within a team environment. Working in sports is a lot like being on a team, if you can't get along with your teammates (co-workers) and your coach (supervisor), you won't be in the game for long.
What organizations were you involved in College that helped you towards your career?
-Obviously, being a student-athlete has had a huge influence on my career in college athletics. Beyond that, I worked as a student assistant at UWS, and that helped me to understand how higher education administration works. I was also a member of the Student Government Association at UWS, an experience I draw back on very frequently as I learn how to navigate the politics of college athletics.
What degree/s is appropriate for this line of work?
-There are plenty of paths that lead to the destination. I have a Business Administration degree and a master's in Sport Administration, and that combination has worked great for me! I've worked alongside people with undergraduate degrees in business, marketing, sociology, psychology, you name it. The key is to do well within whatever major you choose, and then learn how to communicate how the skills you've acquired will translate into the job you're pursuing.
Where and/or what do you hope to be in 2-5 years? 5-10 years? What are the keys to this career advancement?
-This is certainly the million dollar question! In the short-term, I'd like to continue being able to use my event planning skills. Ideally, I'd like to do that within a major NCAA Division I football program. The progression from there would be to become the Director of Football Operations at a major BCS football program. I started out in Football Operations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and I enjoyed my job there tremendously. I would love to return to working in football operations, if that opportunity presents itself.
What was the best piece of advice you received and from who that helped you towards your career?
-I wish I could pinpoint that one defining moment that someone said something and I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but there just isn't one. There have been really amazing people in my life who have encouraged me to never stop working me toward my dream, no matter how many people are out there that think I can't.
Do you have any advice or "words from experience" for a college student interested in this job/field?
-Volunteer to help with things that you find interesting, and don't be afraid to ask questions. The people in this industry all started out where you are now, and we all want to help you to be successful. I've never once offered to help out with a project or event and had someone turn me down.
If you knew all this back in college, what would you say were the most important classes? Is there anything you would have paid more attention to? Any additional classes you would have taken?
-I don't think there were necessarily classes that were the most important, or things I wished I'd have taken. More so, I realize now just how important ALL of the classes were. Sometimes, attending a liberal arts school like UW-Superior, I would wonder what an art class or science class was going to do for me in the long run, since I didn't plan on working in either of those fields. Today, I find myself doing graphic design much more often than I would, and I'm grateful for my background in the arts. I'm certainly not conducting science experiments, but I test hypotheses, form conclusions, and create logical plans of action regularly - it's really not that different than my chemistry class back in undergrad. In the end, the liberal arts education I received at UWS made me a much stronger candidate and employee, because I understand how to think through a problem from lots of different angles.
In college, people claim that a bachelor's degree isn't enough anymore and that you need a master's or doctorate degree to get your foot in the door. What's your opinion?
-I don't think you can ever go wrong by furthering your education. I know that having my master's degree has made me a competitor in a very competitive industry. I also know that if I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat.