Every Day is Different

UVU Athletics marketing team gives student employees head start in world of sports

By Jay Wamsley | Photos by Jay Drowns

They don't often deal with trampolines or rocket engines, but the Utah Valley University Athletics Marketing Team seems to have a knack for launching staffers into next-level experiences, thanks to the experience they gained from UVU.

Parker Handley

Take Parker Handley, for example. The 23-year-old from Centerville, Utah, is currently a social media associate for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA and the associated Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. Handley is tasked with content creation for the social channels of the two professional teams. He utilizes graphic design, photography, and video to create eye-catching, quality content to drive engagement and increase brand awareness.

And just months before this all-in career, he was wondering what he wanted to be when he grew up and was willing to take an unpaid job to find out.

“When I began searching for career paths, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do, other than I wanted to work in sports,” Handley, who is still enrolled at UVU and studying marketing, says. “An opportunity arose to work in the Athletics marketing department on campus, and I began as an unpaid intern. Being in a small department, I had the opportunity to not only work my way up in the department, but grow my skill set and build my all-around value in the industry. When it came to hiring for my new job, what set me apart is my wild skill set and experience that I could have only gained at UVU.”

"When it came to hiring for my new job, what set me
apart is my wild skill set and experience that could
only gained at UVU."

Handley says the around-the-clock nature of social media and digital interaction make for a massive workload and a formidable challenge. But then he remembers his long-time dream of being a part of an NBA franchise.

“My favorite part of the job is by far the experience of being in an NBA front office and being around the team,” Handley says. “The workload can be pretty heavy, but, that being said, working at professional sporting events and hanging out with athletes makes work fun and enjoyable.”

Kameron Dearing, director of marketing and promotions for UVU Athletics, says he remembers Handley’s thirst for learning and noted his constant ambition to learn more. “Parker said he was afraid that I would think he’s abandoning UVU,” Dearing says, “but I couldn’t have been happier for him. He went from an intern that didn’t know what he wanted to be, to a professional designer, hanging out with the big boys.”

Parker Handley in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he manages social media content for two professional basket ball teams.  Handley spends much of his time in the Target Center, home of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx.  Parker stands outside of the Target Center. 

Matt Mansfield

Recent UVU graduate Matt Mansfield also gets to hang out with teams, both professional athletes and teams of well-known broadcasters and their support staff. As a social media shooter and editor for Turner Sports, Mansfield says he has no “typical day.”

“I work with the social media and studios department to fulfill video requests and create content for Turner’s social media accounts, primarily March Madness, NBATV, and NBA on TNT social accounts,” Mansfield says. “We capture in-the-moment interactions between players and the fans that create engagement and excitement on these platforms.”

Besides being involved in the regular NBA season, as covered by Turner Sports, Mansfield travels to events, such as the NBA Awards Show, NBA Summer League, and preseason games.

“There’s not really a typical day for me in the office. Every day there’s a different project or task to complete,” he says. “It really is about the people you meet and work with. Being able to work and learn with the people at Turner is the most rewarding. Being assigned new tasks to work on has helped me grow in this position.”

I know that without UVU I wouldn't be in this position today.

Mansfield is quick to credit UVU for the learning and experiences outside the classroom in preparing him for a high-level career. Mansfield was involved with the Center for the Advancement of Leadership, UVU’s Student Ambassadors, and the UVU Student Alumni Association, in addition to his employment in the Athletics marketing department while at the university.

“I know that without UVU I wouldn’t be in this position today,” he says. “These experiences I received outside the classroom are comparable to those received at so-called elite universities which cost $30,000 a semester. Along with gaining these experiences, I value the networking opportunities and connections I made. Teachers, faculty members, mentors, and fellow students — they have all helped and prepared me for my current position.”

Bill Hoops, former UVU Athletics marketing manager, says many of the innovations and ideas brought by his cadre of interns remain and have become a part of the department’s internal strategy.

“The students we had the chance to work with in UVU Athletics are so talented,” Hoops says. “My role was simple — understand where they wanted to go, give them some guidance and networking, help them think big, and then remove any roadblocks that were in their way. They learned a craft that they might not have intended to learn in the first place, and then added some old-fashioned hustle to it to become great candidates for any job at any level. And now they are working at some of the most visible organizations in all of sports.”

Hoops says he appreciated how the marketing interns saw solutions to problems and worked to help UVU. He says Mansfield originally was assigned to put flyers up and improve attendance at games.

“While working, Matt saw a need to create more engaging content for our social media accounts,” Hoops says. “He used a combination of digital marketing classes, YouTube tutorials, networking with professionals in video, some UVU Athletics camera equipment, and access to each team at UVU to grow incredibly fast.”

Hoops says Mansfield’s work improved so much that he received national recognition, winning a bronze medal in digital promotions from the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators. “It wasn’t long before his content online was getting noticed by some of the most respected universities and broadcasters in the nation.”

Matt Mansfield, in the television studio of "inside the NBA"

Broadcast array  Matt Mansfield in the television studio.  Matt Mansfield often travels to NBA events like awards shows and off-season games. 

Courtney Wright

Social media marketing — not a career or even an academic major a decade ago — also fills the day for Courtney Wright, a 2019 UVU graduate. Wright is in charge of developing and executing digital media plans for the volleyball, baseball, cross-country, and track and field teams at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Wright meets with coaches of each squad and creative teams to develop strategies, along with interactions with ticketing, marketing, and network representatives.

“When the seasons start, I will begin traveling with the teams as their coaches permit. When I am not working with my specific sports, I am helping others on my team in whatever aspects are needed,” Wright says, “which includes working others’ games while they are traveling with their respective teams. We are all present at both football and men’s basketball to create the best content possible.”

Wright notes that the spotlight is a little brighter on Duke than her beloved Wolverines, but it doesn’t deter her enthusiasm for personal growth.

“The best part of my job is being on a stage,” she says. “I have loved spending time in the facilities, getting to know coaches, and being able to create personal relationships that will impact my future career.

“My UVU experience helped prepare me for this role. During my time there, I was able to develop skills that are not developed in the classroom. I was able to learn the world of collegiate athletics. The biggest thing that this position gave me was versatility. I loved having the ability to know how to do every aspect of athletics marketing.”

Hoops says, “Courtney is so good at what she does. In the day-to-day challenges we faced, Courtney would often say something like, ‘Hey, I was thinking about this in class, can we try something new?’ Then we let her do her thing and get out of her way.”

An Orem native, Wright says she hopes to one day get a master’s degree in sports administration.

Courtney Wright standing outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium

Courtney Wright assists with marketing several NCAA teams at Duke University  Courtney Wright assists with marketing several NCAA teams at Duke University  Courtney stands outside at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina 

Jodee Disney

As the community relations intern for the Fiesta Bowl, JoDee Disney is glad she doesn’t get stuck doing what are sometimes cast as lesser intern-level responsibilities.

“The great part about interning with the [Fiesta] Bowl is that you get to be involved in everything and are not stuck doing ‘intern work,’” Disney says. “The best part of my job is being able to work in sports, which is something that I love and am passionate about while also being able to give back to those who really deserve it. I really enjoy working with children, so I am enjoying the events that I get to be around and help children.”

She says she works with a wide array of community outreach efforts and programs, including youth flag football tournaments for the Boys and Girls Club, playground builds, grants to help make classroom wishes come true for teachers across Arizona, and other outward-facing events.

"My background and understanding of
community relations really set me apart
from the other candidates."

“I think the most challenging thing about working in sports is the long hours,” Disney says, “but after the event, the feeling of fulfillment makes it all worth it.”

Disney, a first-generation student from Tacoma, Washington, who graduated summa cum laude in 2019 with a degree in communication, recalls that she took a stab at working with UVU Athletics because there seemed to be opportunities that combined public relations with sports.

“One of the available positions was in “One of the available positions was in community relations, so I decided to try it out. I quickly figured out that this was where I was meant to be,” she says. “Interning and then eventually working for UVU’s Athletics marketing department taught me so much about myself, what I want to do and where I want to go. UVU also provided me with great mentorship from Bill Hoops and friends who wanted to go in the same direction I did. When I was hired for this role at the Fiesta Bowl, my boss said that my background and understanding of community relations really set me apart from the other candidates.”

JoDee Disney works with several community groups in outward-facing efforts related to the Arizona-based Fiesta Bowl

JoDee Disney works with several community groups in outward-facing efforts related to the Arizona-based Fiesta Bowl.  She says some of her favorite community relations events revolve around children's teams.  Painting of a sun and hands catching a football 

Moving Upward

Mansfield, Dearing says, brought UVU’s marketing efforts to a new level through his innovative video work, eventually getting work offers from around the country.

“He consistently studied best practices and what kind of equipment should be used,” Dearing remembers. “We went from a department that had no video production to four cameras and a plethora of lenses. He consistently pushed himself to learn the newest techniques and how to grab attention. The day Matt left was a dark day, and he’s still highly missed by the entire athletic department.”

Of Wright, Dearing said she “consistently did things that no one else wanted to do and did it without complaining.” He said Wright would study other universities’ social activities to find what might work best at UVU: “Her knowledge for efficiency is a major reason why she’s at Duke today. She’s able to do what it takes multiple others to accomplish.”

Dearing remembers Disney as “one of the most passionate employees I’ve had the pleasure of working with. When given a task, she would put her whole heart into it.” He said he enjoyed watching her rise from being an intern to “managing all community relations for me. I knew that I could give her a large task and not need to worry about it.”

No hidden trampolines or personal jet-packs, but these Wolverines continue to move upward in all that they touch, thanks to the mentorship and opportunities they received while at UVU.