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Andy Szabo

Alumni Spotlight—Andy Szabo

Alumni of the College of Applied Health Sciences have myriad career options thanks to the tremendous diversity of programs. We periodically will put the spotlight on an alum to find out what they're doing now, what experiences they had and what AHS means to them. This week, we talk to Andy Szabo, who got his B.S. in Recreation, Sport & Tourism (Sports Management) and Leadership Studies Minor in 2013 and is now Director of Partnership Development for MLB's Oakland Athletics.

Q: Why did you pick AHS?

A: I entered the university in general studies as an undeclared student. Through a year or so of discovery and exploration, I was denied by the College of Business and at a loss. At a similar time, I was introduced to the College of AHS, specifically Sports Management. Ultimately, I chose AHS for its people, experiential opportunities and practical application to my aspirational career path—a college basketball coach, collegiate athletic director or professional sports team/agency executive. 

Q: Which professors had the most impact on you?

A: LoriKay Paden, Don Hardin, Kim Shinew, Ryan Gower, Michael Raycraft and so many others created an inclusive, collaborative, challenging and supportive educational experience. Specifically, LoriKay for her unconditional positivity and Professor Hardin for his mentorship and coaching.

Q: What course did you most enjoy?

A: Loved any Leadership, Strategy or Philosophy course... And Sports Law with Kyle Emkes was a great introduction to the business of sport. For a Leadership/Comms class, I recall having to reenact Jack Nicholson’s courtroom scene in ‘A Few Good Men’—mortifying but hilarious lesson in owning a room and breaking down mental barriers.

Q: Did you enter AHS knowing your career path, or did AHS help you decide?

A: A healthy mix of both. I had a vision to explore a few different paths. Through the AHS/RST curriculum, you learn so much about yourself. I did my best to focus on diversifying my experiences and it not only led to a discovery of what I was interested in, but most importantly why.

Q: Did your AHS experience lead to your current job?

A: Yes—in a variety of ways. First and foremost, it revealed to me my passion for the business of sport. Secondly, it taught me the value of relationships. One of the joys of my Illinois experience was the planning and execution of the annual Sapora Symposium, where we had the opportunity to host some of the most talented professionals in sports and entertainment for a two-day event. Dan Migala, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at 4FRONT, was kind enough to be our keynote speaker and offered an opportunity with his sports marketing agency upon graduation. Our then-Head Men’s Basketball Coach John Groce and then-Director of Basketball Operations Mark Morris also supported the event and went so far to recommend me for the Ohio University Sports Administration MBA/MSA graduate program. What was intended to be a simple volunteer opportunity, turned into an event that fundamentally changed the trajectory of my life and professional career. I owe a lot to Dan, Mark and Coach Groce for believing in me and showing me how to effectively navigate the industry through authentic relationships. 

Q: What is your current job?

A: Currently, I serve as the Director of Partnership Development for the Oakland Athletics of MLB. My role primarily consists of establishing marketing, business and community partnerships on behalf of the organization, working as a revenue generator, storyteller and strategist, while managing a partner portfolio of 20+ local, regional and global brands.

Q: What was your favorite on-campus experience?

A: Too many to count! As a team manager for the Fighting Illini men’s basketball team, I was grateful to learn from amazing coaches, build impactful relationships within the athletic department and represent the university as a whole. Winning the Maui Invitational, beating Gonzaga on the road and taking down No. 1 Indiana at home at the buzzer made for a memorable senior year, to say the least.

Q: What would you say to recommend AHS to a prospective student?

A: The University of Illinois is world-class, and the College of AHS provides a world-class, student-first experience. It felt like a family and there was reason for everything we did. Not an education for the sake of a degree and not a test for the sake of a grade. It is what you make of it, and there are plenty of chances to lean in and create your own personalized journey.

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