SAEM program at Point Park helps students find jobs
January 24, 2013 5:15 AM
Rachel Kernic, 22, graduated with a bachelor's degree from Point Park University's sport, arts and entertainment management program in May. She now works as internal events coordinator at Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.
By Joyce Gannon Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steve Tanzilli's college search was driven by a couple of factors: His parents stipulated that he attend a Catholic school and he was adamant about living in a city with a major league baseball team.
Despite the fact that his hometown of Boston met the search requirements, Mr. Tanzilli landed at Duquesne University, Uptown, where he majored in business and hounded his professors to help him secure an internship with the Pirates.
Now 39 and an associate professor in sport, arts and entertainment management at Point Park University, Mr. Tanzilli urges his students to seek multiple internships, find volunteer work related to their major and engage in relentless networking to achieve their goals of working for a professional sports team, running a concert venue or managing a performing arts group.
"One internship probably isn't going to get it done ... especially now with this economy. The only way you get a job in this business is by knowing somebody and working."
A decade ago, Mr. Tanzilli founded Point Park's Sport, Arts and Entertainment Management program as a field of concentration in the university's business school.
From an initial class of about 10 students, the program has grown to approximately 250 undergraduates enrolled in courses such as event management, fundraising, facility administration and legal aspects of the sports and entertainment industries. Class instructors must have experience in those industries to be hired by Mr. Tanzilli, who is also director of the program.
Last spring, the program added a class in ticketing that is co-taught by the box office managers of the Consol Energy Center and the Pittsburgh Playhouse.
Teresa Gregory, a consultant whose resume includes fundraising work for the Yale Repertory Theater and the Los Angeles Theater Center, teaches essential fundraising principles and performing arts management. And Ed Traversari, a longtime concert promoter in the region and former general manager of the amphitheatre at Station Square, South Side, teaches facility and venue administration, among other classes.
"The teachers are all professionals. That's a requirement of mine," said Mr. Tanzilli. "I want current knowledge brought into the classroom."
He's worked to make sure he has that as well. Mr. Tanzilli teaches the SAEM introductory course, a class in career preparation and legal aspects of the sports, arts and entertainment industries.
Following his undergraduate studies and an internship with the Pirates in the team's media relations department, Mr. Tanzilli earned a law degree at the University of Pittsburgh and then carved out a career in sports marketing and as a sports agent.
Among the projects for which he's managed marketing are the Pittsburgh Triathlon, the Pittsburgh Adventure Race and the Ryan Clark Cure League, a nonprofit that the Steelers safety founded to raise money for sickle cell disease research and patient care.
Mr. Tanzilli and other faculty tout the degree as being one of the few that combines all three disciplines -- sports, arts and entertainment -- in one program within a business school. Most other universities with similar offerings separate sports marketing and management from arts and entertainment.
Duquesne and Robert Morris University, for instance, have business degrees in sports marketing and sport management, respectively; while Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College has a master of entertainment industry management. At Drexel University in Philadelphia, the entertainment and arts management program in 2011 added a concentration in sports entertainment.
Before launching its own program, Mr. Tanzilli said, Point Park researched a number of other offerings including a sports marketing center at the University of Oregon, the sports administration center at Ohio University and the arts and entertainment management programs at Belmont University, Nashville, and Stanford and Pepperdine universities, both in California.
"We wanted the SAEM program to be in the school of business because what makes a successful sports or arts or entertainment executive is someone who understands marketing, finance and business," Mr. Tanzilli said. "So if [students] don't get their dream job with the Steelers or Sony Music, they still have a skill set" to work elsewhere.
Course requirements include principles of management, accounting, human resources and corporate finance. The program is also offered as a concentration for Point Park's MBA candidates.
Ms. Gregory, an assistant professor at Point Park who previously taught at CMU, acknowledged the job market has taken a hit as the recession shrank budgets at nonprofit and for-profit sports and entertainment organizations.
She and other faculty believe their students get a jump-start on career experience through internships and connections made through teachers who work in the field.
The school doesn't maintain formal placement statistics but Mr. Tanzilli said more than 90 percent of graduates who responded to a recent survey said they were employed though they didn't specify what kinds of jobs they held. Many go on to pursue law degrees or MBAs, he said
"Last semester we had 35 students interning at various places around the area," Ms. Gregory said. "We've got them working at athletic facilities, managing soccer teams," or at venues in the cultural district.
Besides mandating practical experience, the program has several classes that convene at sites where students get a first-hand look at sports and entertainment venues.
Mr. Traversari frequently meets with students in a classroom at Stage AE, a North Shore concert facility where some students have interned or found jobs in the box office or guest services.
Adam Sutermaster, 26, a senior planning to graduate in May, took the introductory course as a freshman, decided to focus on live entertainment and is now earning credits as an intern doing promotions for Stage AE.
"Not a lot of schools offer classes in a venue like this," said Mr. Sutermaster who hopes to become a band tour manager or work at a concert venue.
For the inaugural ticketing class last year, students were required to work at the Playhouse theater box office in Oakland, which is affiliated with Point Park. Students also visited commercial enterprises such as Showclix, a Downtown company that produces ticketing software.
Among the volunteer opportunities for ticketing class students was helping at the Consol Center during the NCAA men's basketball tournament in March. This year's class will have similar opportunities during the NCAA men's Frozen Four hockey games in April, said Anthony Dennis, co-instructor for the class and director of the Playhouse box office.
For Rachel Kernic, 22, who graduated with a bachelor's degree from the Point Park program in May 2012, volunteering at a Ryan Clark Cure League event and doing three different internships as an undergrad were among the experiences that helped her land a job as internal events coordinator at Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.
"I was getting out into the real world. My professors weren't just reading out of books. They've had these jobs before."
Mr. Tanzilli cautions students that the SAEM program isn't for those who envision being a spectator at sold-out rock concerts or professional sports playoff games.
"You have to get into this business to understand it's a business. You can't be just a fan. Fans don't get jobs. Those who get jobs understand it's about making money and building a brand."