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Elana Kutz: Helping students win in the sports business field

Staff Sketch

Elana Kutz has always made her own way, even when there has not been a clear path to follow. A director in the W. P. Carey sports business program, Elana got her first sports “job” in college when she boldly asked the University of Michigan men’s basketball coach if she could be the team manager. “He kind of scoffed and asked why he would hire a woman to manage the men’s team,” Elana explained, “but he left the school shortly after. I asked the interim coach and got the gig!”

This go-for-it mentality is also what brought her back to ASU in 2009, after getting her MBA in 2004. “My family was moving back to Arizona, but I didn’t know if I wanted to stay in the traditional sports arena. My daughter had just been born, and I could not imagine keeping the schedule that traditional sports jobs demand. So, I reached back out to someone I knew from my W. P. Carey days and asked what options might be here for me,” Elana recounted. Since then, she worked in the former MBA Career Management Center as a career coach, took some time off to care for a family member, and rejoined W. P. Carey to help launch the undergraduate sports business program in 2013.

Elana wants the undergraduate sports business students she works with to reach for their goals with the same gumption, and she works hard to make sure they have opportunities to do so. Twice a year, she takes both the Sports Business Association and the Sport Business Scholars on networking trips in different cities, where they meet executives in the field and visit major sports organizations, whether it’s a professional team, broadcasting organization, a brand, or an agency. The field is growing fast (the W. P. Carey sports business program has over 1,300 students) and Elana’s focus is on making sure our students are competitive and collaborative. “I also manage our sports business advisory board, which gives me an opportunity to strengthen our relationships with the local sports business community. The sports executives review curriculum, share programming recommendations, discuss career opportunities for our students, and serve as mentors for our top students,” she shares. “I love working for a University that is so focused on helping students reach their personal goals.”

How do you explain the sports business program to someone who might not be familiar with it?

I actually get this question from parents and prospective students quite often. I like to explain that it’s really similar to a traditional business degree, just specialized to the sports context. For example, you could do traditional business analytics, or you can take that knowledge and apply it to sports decisions in marketing or ticketing. You could do traditional supply chain management, or you could say I want to work for Nike and source the gear for their partner teams. So students get the same business know-how, just through a sports lens that helps them reach their goals.

What was your first job, and what did it teach you?

My very first job in high school was at a mall yogurt shop. I learned a lot about customer service, responsibility, teamwork, and how to perfectly chop a Reese’s peanut butter cup. Valuable life skills! My first job out of college was at Radio City Music Hall, which was quite memorable. I had the opportunity to coordinate marketing for touring Broadway shows and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Rockettes Show. I gained valuable skills at that job, and because Cablevision bought both Madison Square Garden and Radio City, I developed connections to help me land my dream job in sports. That’s a huge takeaway. Even if your first job is not exactly what you want to be doing, it can provide you with the skills and connections that eventually help you land your desired position!

What is the most adventurous thing you've ever done?

I completed the Outdoor Challenge Program in Israel when I graduated from Michigan. The four-week program included camping and hiking through Israel, rappelling, kayaking, as well as a ton of history.

Do you volunteer for any causes that are particularly important to you?

Yes, our family makes a point to volunteer together whenever we can. Feed My Starving Children does important work we love to support. I also spend time volunteering at community theaters because one of my daughters does musical theater all over the valley. It’s also important for me to support the Jewish community, so attending events and organizing silent auction donations for our synagogue and my daughters’ school. I also volunteer for Junior Achievement, where I teach business curriculum to elementary age children. My involvement gives me an opportunity to spend time in my kids’ classrooms and get to know their teachers and classmates. It’s like a perfect meshing of things that are important to me.

What is your hidden talent?

This is a new one, but I have started dabbling in tap dancing! I was able to convince a studio to start a class for adults, so I recruited some friends to join me in picking up a new skill while also finding a fun way to exercise and spend time together.

Salty or sweet? Sweet

Coffee or tea? Coffee

Cat or dog? Dog

Board games or video games? Board games

Book or movie? Movie

Mac or PC? Mac

Morning person or night owl? Morning person

Hot or cold? Hot

On time or late? On time