Surmounting Long Odds, Isenberg Graduate Joins NBA Associate Program

July 8, 2013

In a field of 3,000 applicants, Melcolm Ruffin '13, a graduate of Isenberg's Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management, is among eight candidates who will join the National Basketball Association's prestigious NBA Associate Program. The eight to 12-month rotational program immerses trainees in a wealth of management and leadership challenges at the NBA's league offices in Manhattan and Secaucus, New Jersey.


Although Ruffin's rotational assignments have yet to be determined (the first begins in July), he anticipates meaningful project-based work and face-to-face contact with seasoned NBA managers. (His own preferences include operations [he minored in Operations & Information Management], global marketing partnerships, and work with the NBA's Development [Minor] League.). "In the Associate Program, you do valuable hands-on work, expand your network in the organization, and gain a broad perspective that spans departments," explains Ruffin.


"Judging by his accomplishments at McCormack and Isenberg, I expect Melcolm to succeed with flying colors in any challenge at the NBA," observes McCormack department chair Lisa Pike Masteralexis. "In the 4+ years that I've known him, his work ethic, emotional maturity, leadership ability, academic prowess, and humility have been extraordinary," she emphasizes.


"Melcolm, in fact, has made us a better department," she continues. Frustrated that sports organizations rarely recruited on the UMass Amherst campus, Ruffin founded and co-chaired McCormack's first and subsequent student-run career fair(s), which attracted 40 recruiting organizations and 300+ attendees. The annual fair has yielded scores of internship and job offers for McCormack students. Ruffin himself was the recipient of an internship last summer with the Philadelphia 76ers--an experience that helped him to gain his current position with the NBA.


Ruffin also leveraged a previously modest student club, the Association of Diversity in Sport (ADS), into a catalyst for innovative programming, including the career fairs, a football camp for local high-schoolers, and a panel discussion that examined the socioeconomic implications of LeBron James' success. In 2012, the ADS, besting 300 clubs at UMass Amherst, received the campus-wide Outstanding Student Organization of the Year award. At the same time, Ruffin earned the distinction of Outstanding Organization Officer.


The McCormack department's culture encourages students to be innovative; to expand their academic and professional horizons, emphasizes Ruffin. "They never put limits on us; they helped us believe that we could do new things; that we could make a difference. When we succeeded, as with the career fair, they didn't take it away from us."


"At the career fairs, everything ran like clockwork; there was a sense of calm professionalism," remarks Masteralexis.  "That's because Melcolm set clear goals combined with respectful accountability that empowered everybody. At McCormack, we are proud to foster those leadership qualities and we are emphatically proud of Melcolm."