McCormack Introduces Groundbreaking Women in Business Course
January 28, 2021
Times are changing fast in the sports industry: On November 13, 2020, the Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng as their new general manager, making Ng the first female general manager in Major League Baseball history. Ng, who has worked in baseball operations since 1990, is also the first female general manager in the history of major American men’s professional sports. While there have been female owners and executives, Ng is the first woman in charge of roster construction, scouting, and development.
With history like Ng’s in mind, UMass Amherst’s top-ranked Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management has announced the addition of a first-of-its-kind new course, Women in Business, which is launching during the spring 2021 semester for 25 students who aspire to pursue a career in the sports industry.
The course will feature case studies of women from across the commercial sports landscape who have succeeded in industry and apply strategies they have used to break into roles that have long been dominated by men. The course came to fruition thanks to several women who have graduated from UMass and gone on to success in the sports industry, in particular LA28’s Zaileen Janmohamed (pictured left), a 2005 MBA/MS dual-degree alumna of the program. Through donations of both time and money, Janmohamed helped spearhead the course with its instructors, McCormack Department Associate Professors Dr. Nicole Melton and Dr. Nefertiti Walker. Walker (pictured bottom right) also serves as vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion at UMass Amherst.
“UMass continues to be a pioneer in the education of the next generation of leaders in the sports industry, and there is no better time than now to provide a master class on the practical and professional development women need to navigate this business,” says Janmohamed. “While the industry has come a long way in gender equality in sports, we still have so much work to do. I’m honored to participate in this course, to engage with and support the next generation of female sports executives.”
Melton is excited to be starting up the course at such a pivotal moment in the industry’s development. “It is a cool tie-in with the moment we are seeing in sports,” she says. “Kim Ng, that moment is so neat. I have seen declarations all over social media with sayings like ‘Put your shoes on women, because glass is everywhere.’ In this moment of women reaching levels and positions that we have never seen before, we need to prepare the next group of women to reach those goals. This class comes at the perfect time.”
Along with Janmohamed, Karina Herold (MBA/MS ’08, LA Sports & Entertainment Commission), Karen Peters MS '95, and Gloria Nevarez '93 have supported the project financially. Kate Johnson (Director, Global Marketing & Media, Google), Jessica Gelman (CEO of Kraft Analytics Groups), and Angela Ruggiero (CEO of Sports Innovation Lab) have all contributed time, energy, and insight in helping shape this groundbreaking course.
“The goal of the course is to create this powerful baseline of perspective, insight, and confidence for women within McCormack, so they will have the support and knowledge they need to succeed at the highest levels of this industry,” Melton (pictured right) says. “Who better to inject that insight on what it takes to succeed than leading women currently dictating positive change in the industry?”
UMass Amherst’s McCormack Department, which is housed in the Isenberg School of Management and was recently judged by its academic peers as the top-ranked sport management program in the world, is focused on consistently adapting to the shifting dynamics of the sports business industry. The Women in Sports Business class came about through faculty and alumni engagement, as the program focuses on how to design meaningful student enrichment opportunities and establish UMass as the premier place for women to study and prepare for industry success.
“We feel the time is right to launch this new initiative, especially given the support and encouragement of some of our most notable women alumni,” says McCormack Department Chair Steve McKelvey. “We are proud to have faculty members who are among the most renowned researchers in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ve had a vibrant Diversity and Inclusion course for a while now, and this new course is a logical extension of not only our existing research and teaching, but also our commitment to working with industry practitioners to provide our students with the training they need for future success.”
Several undergraduate and graduate students, including Lauren Elgee, a current first-year MBA/MS dual student at Isenberg, have also been crucial to the building of the class curriculum.
“It has been exciting to hear from leaders in such varied sports industry segments to assist in building this course,” Elgee says. “I think it will be extremely valuable to hear their stories and learn from their experiences.”
The University of Massachusetts continues to dedicate resources towards increasing diversity and inclusion; this course addition is one piece of that larger puzzle, and hopefully a model of intentional, forward-thinking curriculum design crafted and applied within a business school.