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UW-Eau Claire’s Business of Sports Symposium features alumni

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: The BMW Championship golf tournament concluded Aug. 29 near Baltimore with a six-hole playoff. UW-Eau Claire alumna Christina Leonhard is the manager of ticket sales and marketing for the tournament.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumna Christina Leonhard soaked in the drama on the course at Caves Valley Golf Club near Baltimore on Aug. 29 as Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau engaged in a wild playoff at the 2021 BMW Championship.

As the golf tournament’s manager of ticket sales and marketing, Leonhard usually is too busy during the tournament to watch the action, but she was able to see Cantlay sink an 18-foot putt on the sixth extra hole to win the championship.

Christina Leonhard

Christina Leonhard, manager of ticket sales and marketing for the BMW Championship

“I don’t get to see a lot of the golf throughout the week,” says Leonhard, who grew up in western Wisconsin near Ladysmith. “But it was awesome at the end to look around and take in all the fans that stayed until the end and know that I had a part in them all being there.

“There’s a lot of hard work and planning that goes into an event, and there is nothing better than sharing a championship moment with those whom you’ve worked day in and day out with to get to that moment.”

Leonhard, who graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2005 with a degree in business administration, will be among the 13 Blugold alumni currently working in the sports industry who will return to campus this month to share their experiences. They will be part of the Business of Sports Symposium hosted by the College of Business.

The symposium is open primarily to COB students, but other UW-Eau Claire students may attend the event. There is no fee but students are asked to register.

A panel discussion among alumni and those in attendance will be live-streamed and start at 2 p.m. Sept. 17 in Davies Center. Breakout sessions will follow. A networking reception at 4:30 p.m. will conclude the symposium.

“We’ve developed a strong reputation for having people in the front offices of big-time sports,” says Dr. Brewer Doran, dean of the College of Business. “We want to help students learn the pathway from being at UW-Eau Claire to being in the front office of a major professional or college sport.”

UW-Eau Claire offers a sports management course and Doran would like to see it expand to a more formal area of emphasis. Eventually, sports management could be a degree program for Blugolds, Doran says.

“I am excited to learn that UWEC is exploring expanding their sports business curriculum,” says Blugold alumnus Kevin Kluender, the University of Wisconsin assistant athletic director for marketing and promotions who will be at the symposium. ”The sports industry continues to grow and evolve. There will be room for hard-working, creative and innovative people in our industry.”

Kluender is passionate about the sports industry and looks forward to meeting and talking with current Blugolds at the symposium.

“Many people gave me some of their time or offered me an opportunity when I was starting out,” says Kluender, a 1994 UW-Eau Claire graduate in journalism-advertising. “To the extent I am able, hopefully this is a way I can give back in a similar manner. I’m also looking forward to further meeting with Blugolds currently in the industry.”

Leonhard says she is returning to UW-Eau Claire for the sports symposium because she once received sound advice that as people advance in their careers, they should not forget to “reach back down and pull the next future leaders in the industry up with you.”

“I think a lot can be shared from working in the industry that you can’t always learn from a classroom setting,” Leonhard says.

Leonhard credits UW-Eau Claire with developing some of the “soft skills” necessary in her career, such as interpersonal and communication skills, adaptability and problem-solving.

“There are a lot of professional paths that can be taken in the sports world,” Leonhard says. “The key is networking, in my opinion. Find internships and show your worth. Even if it’s not the exact career path you think you want to take, you never know who might notice you.”

Doran agrees that the networking reception will be an ideal opportunity for UW-Eau Claire students to get to know alumni in the sports industry.

“Everybody who is coming here has the potential for internships,” Doran says. “It’s an incredible opportunity for students. These alumni are so excited to come back to share their stories and to see campus and to, hopefully, help us develop an emphasis in sports management.

“They loved their experience here. They are typical Blugolds who remember with great fondness everything about their UW-Eau Claire experience. And they credit their success to their Blugold experience.”

Participating in the symposium are:

  • Vince Cicero '86, graduate in business administration, Major League Soccer team FC Cincinnati's senior vice president for partnerships and broadcasting.
  • Craig Gumz '04, graduate in public relations/image management, Minnesota Twins' senior manager of season business retention and service.
  • Curt Krizan '93, graduate in accounting, the Fiesta Bowl’s chief financial and ticket revenue officer.
  • Christina Leonhard '05, graduate in business administration, BMW Championship manager of ticket sales and marketing.
  • Jason Lewis '81, graduate in business administration/finance, Oklahoma State University Athletics' executive senior associate athletics director for business and finance.
  • Jack Heruth '16, graduate in entrepreneurship management, Minnesota Twins' season ticket sales and service executive
  • Kevin Kluender '94, graduate in journalism-advertising, University of Wisconsin assistant athletic director for marketing and promotions.
  • Mathew Makovec '06, graduate in marketing and public relations, Los Angeles Lakers' director of community relations and NBA2K player operations.
  • Clint Overby '96, graduate in kinesiology and business administration, ESPN Events vice president.
  • Cassidy Sepnieski '17, graduate in marketing, Forward Madison FC, art director; Madison Mallards, director of marketing.
  • Will Syring '09, graduate in business administration, Oklahoma City Thunder vice president of corporate partnerships.
  • Monica Wagner '05, graduate in marketing, Madison Mallards and Forward Madison FC, vice president of corporate ticket sales.
  • Tim Zenner '00, graduate in kinesiology with an exercise management emphasis, Detroit Lions’ senior director of ticket and fan engagement.