Shana Howlett grew up with a passion for sports.
“I played basketball all the way through high school — that’s where my love of sports comes from,” the Virginia native said. “I thought the perfect thing to do was to combine sports and business, and sport administration fell along those lines.”
Howlett decided to enroll in Arkansas State University’s online Master of Science in Sport Administration program two years after earning her bachelor’s degree in marketing at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she interned in the VCU athletics department.
“People only see what’s on the field, or on the court,” Howlett explained. “They don’t see everything that goes on behind the scenes or all the people who are doing everything to get these games running. That’s what I fell in love with in the sports industry.”
Howlett is currently a facility supervisor for Loudon County Parks and Recreation and Community Services in Chantilly, Virginia. She took her time searching for a master’s program that fit both her interests and her work schedule.
“I was just going on Google and searching and comparing different universities and Arkansas State was the one that was the most convenient for me,” she said.
The sport administration program’s streamlined admissions process also allowed her to begin graduate school right away.
“I didn’t have to take the GRE, so all I had to do is write my statement and purpose, get my letters of recommendation and send my transcripts. The admissions process was really quick,” she said. “They got back to me within a week or two letting me know that I had been accepted, and my start date was the following month.”
Once Howlett began the program in May of 2017, each course gave her a new perspective on the games she loved to watch and play, and the places where athletes compete.
“As a sports fan, you think you know everything about the sports industry, but in going through this program, you learn a lot more about the managerial work that goes into running sports organizations,” she said. “They got back to me within a week or two letting me know that I had been accepted, and my start date was the following month.”
Howlett will graduate in just a few days, and she’s also moving on to new opportunity. She’ll soon relocate downstate to join York County Parks and Recreation as a staff support assistant.
Building on the Fundamentals
One of Howlett’s favorite classes at A-State helped her develop new knowledge in a business discipline where she already had a solid foundation.
“I liked [ESPE 6123: Sport Marketing] because I earned my bachelor’s degree in marketing,” she said. “We covered a lot of the things that I already knew and had already taken classes on, but it was with a focus solely on the sports world.”
Howlett also gained expertise in the legal aspects sports and sporting events, along with a deeper understanding of the responsibilities that come with being in charge.
“I learned a whole lot [in ESPE 6113: Sport Law] about law in general, but especially when it comes to running sports facilities,” she said. “Things that have to do with safety and liability. Different state laws, and how states differentiate in their laws. Everything that you have to keep in mind when you’re a manager or you’re in charge of a facility.”
Understanding the legal risks and challenges of sports administration has influenced Howlett’s approach to public recreation.
“We have a lot of policies and procedures in our recreation center when it comes to liability and safety,” she explained. “What I have learned has played a part in my decisions and the suggestions that I’ve made to my managers as far as policies that we put in place to make sure we’re not held liable for injuries and damages.”
Being able to rapidly put her education to work has given Howlett the confidence she needs to move forward in her career, and follow a path that’s not what she expected.
“When I first started the program, my main goal was to work in either a professional sport organization or for a collegiate athletics department in marketing,” she said. “Along the way, as I’ve been working in parks and rec, I’ve kind of drawn an interest in working more in parks and rec.”
Howlett now plans to focus on youth athletics and other public programs, “running sport league and sports programs, classes, camps, things like that,” she said.
As she works toward this goal, Howlett also keeps her athletic fundamentals sharp by participating in recreational sports herself. She serves as a point guard for her coed basketball team in Northern Virginia’s competitive FXA Adult Sports league.
From Practice Comes Progress
The ESPE 681V: Internship class has also helped Howlett put her education into practice on the job. Like many online students, she was able to complete her internship where she currently works.
“I took on new and different responsibilities that were outside of my normal day-to-day duties,” she said. “I assisted upper management with everything they were doing in the fitness programs, rentals and our drop-in sports.”
Howlett soon became adept at handling the full spectrum of work that goes into managing a rec center.
“There is so much that we do, it’s not a ‘same thing every day’ type of place,” she said. “I helped out with scheduling part-time employees, calling and emailing trying to get shifts covered, contacting people that were renting the recreation rooms and letting them know rules and policies, checking payments for room rentals. We also have a lot of birthday parties at our recreation center, so I would coordinate all of that, get supplies and contact parents to go over rules and policies.”
Going to graduate school can be challenging, and it takes a lot of dedication to keep study time and deadlines in balance with work and other parts of life. Howlett believes the knowledge and work ethic she has built by taking online courses at A-State, and the degree she has earned, will serve her well throughout her career in sports administration.
“I enjoy seeing everything coming together,” she said. “When you’ve prepared for an event or a game, and see an end result where everything is successful, that makes the work behind the scenes worth all of the time and effort.”
Learn more about the A-State online MS in Sport Administration program.