Tiffin Tuesdays featuring Dr. Bonnie Tiell

Dr. Bonnie Tiell
Dr. Bonnie Tiell

Q: Bonnie, you were nominated for #TiffinTuesdays for your creativity in the classroom.  Could you share with us how you built courses that get your students touring sports facilities and interacting with professional sports organizations.
A: I’ve been teaching sport management courses at Tiffin University since 1988 which provides plenty of time to develop, maintain, and leverage a lot of contacts in the field, especially with our growing number of alumni working in the industry.

Q: Why are personal visits to sport facilities important for your students?
A: It’s difficult to assess how much exposure students have had to world outside of their hometown, and the community that their college campus is located.  Creating opportunities for students to meet professionals in their working environment adds a sense of realism to where an education can lead.

Q: What do your students learn from interacting with sport facilities and their staff that they cannot get in the classroom?
A: When you’re in the visiting clubhouse and one of the managers tells a story about Derek Jeter’s last appearance, or the student getting a peak at private parking area underneath the field and seeing the cars driven by some of the players. There is something to be said about generating interest.

Q: You have been an encourager of women’s leadership in sports, what motivates you to pour into women’s leadership?
A: I want to still be around to see the needle move! I would love to see significant progress in the number and percentage of sport businesses and athletic programs that are led by a qualified, fearless, competent woman. Women are the underrepresented population in terms of leadership roles in sport, business, medicine and politics. Some 20% of over 1200 college athletic departments have a female at the top of the organizational chart. The percentages are lower in professional sport leagues, except in the WNBA where five of the 12 franchises has a female CEO. It is important to me to get involved with professional development programs that can have a subtle impact in sourcing opportunities and resources that may help move that needle.

Q: What changes have you noticed with women in sports since you have been teaching?
A: Saudi Arabia finally lifted a ban on women competing in the Olympics, the first female has been hired as an assistant coach in the NBA, two NFL teams currently include a female assistant coaches, and women are breaking barriers as professional scouts in the MLB and as referees for the NBA and NFL.  Increases in the number of women working as assistant coaches in intercollegiate women’s sports have seen the greatest impact in the last few decades, but the percentages haven’t changed much in terms of gender at the top.

Q: What is the best run organization in sports that you have come in contact with?
A: The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission (GCSC), primarily because of the tenure of their CEO, Dave Gilbert who is wise beyond his youth.  When I first was introduced to the GCSC, they only had three employees.  They have grown in size and stature, but most impressive is the $410 million dollar economic impact the GCSC has had on the local area. Dave has mentored countless employees and interns that are now managing world championship events and serving as directors in sport franchises and National Governing Bodies all over the country.

Q: What is the best sports event that you have witnessed with your students?
A: Usain Bolt being awarded the Olympic gold medal for the 100 meters in Rio.

Q: To high school students looking to get into sports, what is one piece of advice that you would give to them?
A: The sports industry wants business minded individuals who can communicate well and demonstrate initiative.  My advice would be to major in anything you want, but work or volunteer a few hours or weeks in a sports or recreation setting every single semester and showcase it all on your resume. Opportunities to gain experience are abundant, but it is important to be resourceful, make connections, and demonstrate initiative to locate and leverage opportunities.

Bonnie, we are going to ask a couple of fun questions.

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: Two colors --- TU Green and Gold

Q: What is your favorite book?
A:  Stephen Covey “The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything”

Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: “West Side Story” Go JETS

Q: Who is your favorite professional athlete
A: Nate Washington, of course!  Hopefully Antonio Pipkin, soon!

Q: If you could have a conversation with anyone, who would it be?
A: Condoleezza Rice – I’m fascinated with a female politician’s perspective on the college football playoff committee. I would love to discuss her ideas on resources and strategies to increase the number and percentage of women in leadership positions throughout all levels of sport.