Sports-oriented alumni score in the workforce

Universities aim to shape their graduates into successful professionals. Whether an alumna is pursuing a career in the sciences or business marketing, personal triumphs add to the prestige of universities.

Professionals from all fields foster lasting relationships with their schools. Learning does not stop with the attainment of a degree, and university alumni associations encourage involvement from past students.

“Alumni are valuable to a university because they really are the spotlight of what the university does. They are the product of our mission as an organization,” Julia Martinez, advancement services director, said. “Their success is our success.”

Nine universities are traveling to Anchorage for the 2010 Great Alaska Shootout, and all have garnered a long list of alumni. Notable graduates include a professional basketball player and a marketing coordinator. The success stories of these alumni promote continuing progress and pride.

Sports are not a big part of many college graduates’ plans, but career paths can veer into uncharted territories.

Kent State University (KSU) 2002 alumna Demetric Shaw spends his post-college days on a basketball court. Since his graduation, Shaw has been touring the international basketball circuit as a point guard for the Sundsvall Dragons. That name may be unfamiliar, but unless you follow professional European basketball it is understandable, as the Dragons are based in Sweden.

All brawn and no brains is far from accurate when it comes to Shaw, however. The professional point guard holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from KSU.

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As a former member of Kent State’s 2002 Elite Eight basketball team Shaw was instrumental in leading the Golden Flashes, the university’s intercollegiate basketball team, to the NCAA Tournament. This was during Shaw’s senior year and is the most memorable for the Kent State alumna.

“The excitement on campus during the 2002 basketball season was at an all-time high,” Shaw said on the university’s website. “After winning the game that earned our team the Elite Eight status, my anatomy class gave me a standing ovation.”

Southern Utah University (SUU) Katie Clifford’s career is part business, part athletics.

After graduating from SUU with a bachelor’s in communications in ’98, Clifford served a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints in Switzerland. Following this exercise in philanthropy, she returned home just in time for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

Assigned to the track and field and figure skating department as part of her sports warehouse job, she quickly fell in love with the world of sports.

A year ago, the SUU alumna began working for the fashion brand Tretorn, a subsidiary of PUMA. Working up the ranks she now is employed by its parent company.

In her new role with PUMA, Clifford is part of a team that sets the market strategy for the gulf and women’s fitness categories. The team is tasked with developing a strategy that is very flexible, changing from region to region around the world.

Clifford has worked with Apolo Ohno, Geoff Ogilvy and Kelly Ripa. She has also helped organize major events, such as the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and the Iron Girl Race Series.

Journalism alumna of Drake University, Sandy Bretzlauf, lives in a world of fandom. As the Denver Broncos partnerships and game day marketing coordinator, Bretzlauf uses her advertising skills attained at Drake to help plan fan events, such as the pregame tailgating in the Broncos Barn, which includes autograph sessions, meet-and-greets with cheerleaders and former Bronco’s players and other fan appreciation duties.

With most of her time spent on organizing fan events, Bretzlauf may not see a single moment of the home games.

Before you ask, the answer is no. The Drake University graduate cannot get you free tickets to a home game.

“When people find out I work for the Broncos, the first question they ask me is if I can get them tickets,” Bretzlauf said on Drake’s alumni website.

One of her jobs does consist of giving away tickets, but those are usually passes reserved for the team’s biggest contributors, sponsors and other Denver high rollers.

Important positions in the world of sports are not the only place university alumni can be found. Continuing involvement with their university can extend to simple actions, such as attending a sporting event.

Alumni of UAA will be in the crowd during the 2010 Great Alaska Shootout, cheering with honor.

“They remain involved in a number of ways. Alumni give back by giving scholarship moneys; there are college associations they can connect with, which seek to connect, advocate and support the university; volunteer on advisory boards and with surveys,” Martinez said. “There is a number of ways they remain involved and there is a strong segment that appreciate and are proud of their university.”

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