WORCESTER, Mass. – Earlier this month, Assumption women's basketball senior Kiera O'Donnell (Cheshire, Conn. / Holy Cross) was selected to attend the NCAA's Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis. O'Donnell was one of more than 200 student-athletes from across the nation to make the trip to Indiana to participate in the event.
Following her trip, O'Donnell reflected on her experience and all that she gained from her time in Indianapolis.
Q: Can you talk about your reaction when you found out you were selected to go to the NCAA Forum?
A: I was absolutely thrilled when I found out that I had been selected. It seemed like such an incredible opportunity to learn more about careers in intercollegiate athletics and to meet people from schools all throughout the country. I already knew that I wanted to work with college student-athletes, so the opportunity to learn about my future job options was extremely valuable.
Q: Did the experience meet your expectations?
A: This experience absolutely surpassed any expectation I could have formed. The speakers were incredibly helpful and approachable. These professionals often spent the entire day with us even though their sessions only lasted for an hour to allow for personal connections to be made. They were very open to answering questions and helping us in our pursuit of careers after sports. There was also a ton of time built in for the student athletes to connect with each other and talk about our own experiences in school. It was incredible to hear from so many different people from every part of the country. It was helpful to hear about experiences at schools like Tennessee or Ohio State which have an extremely different culture than Assumption. By the end of the first day we all had a group message going and had really started to bond as a group, and everyone has stayed in touch in these weeks following the experience!
Q: What was a typical day like for you during the Career in Sports Forum?
A: The days were definitely long, typically from about 8 am until 7 pm. We would usually listen to a couple of speakers in the morning, then break into groups and go through different seminars to learn about different job categories in the NCAA or to learn more about ourselves as professionals and as people. Then we'd all come back together for more speakers. Of course, meals and breaks were also included and we were typically given time to explore the NCAA headquarters, specifically the Hall of Champions museum.
Q: What was it like being able to connect with students from all over the country?
A: The biggest takeaway from the forum was that networking is absolutely KEY in higher education. Having the opportunity to connect with 240 student-athletes that were also interested in working in sports was an unbelievable opportunity. We got really close with each other considering we had such little time together. We have a group message that is still active which we use to talk about changes within the NCAA and how it affects student-athletes. We also have a LinkedIn group where we can post any openings we hear of or further opportunities for conferences or other professional development. It's really comforting to be going out into the workforce knowing I have connections throughout the country who are willing to help!
Q: Did you have a favorite session or experience that really stuck with you?
A: Penny Semaia, the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student Life at the University of Pittsburgh came to talk to us and that has really stuck with me. He talked to us about our personal brands and what kind of energy you put out into the world. The content was really interesting, however Penny himself is one of the most electric people I've ever met. His energy is unlike anything I've ever encountered, and I was able to connect with him after the forum ended and he has been extremely helpful with leading me to connections in Virginia that he had, to help with my transition down here.
Q: What did you take from the experience that will help you in your next professional steps?
A: The timing of this conference was actually perfect as I started my Master's program in Higher Education with a concentration in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration at the University of Virginia this week. From the forum I learned about different routes I could take once I finish my program and opened my eyes to opportunities that I honestly didn't even know were out there. The best takeaway from the forum is absolutely the strength of the relationships I formed while there. I don't think I truly understood how important networking was when I got to the conference, but it's absolutely everything in my future line of work. Having over 200 people who will be embarking on similar journeys as me is extremely helpful.
Q: Any Final Thoughts?
A: This was one of the best experiences I've ever had. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to apply and still in awe that I was selected. I absolutely encourage current student-athletes to consider this opportunity. Even if you are not considering a job in athletics after graduation, the opportunity to meet and network with people from all over the country and world is so valuable.For my fellow recent graduates, check out the NCAA's resources for life after sports! They have a job search engine specifically for former student-athletes!