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Internships turns ASU Sports Law and Business students into franchise players

ASU Sports Law and Business program helps students land coveted internships.
June 20, 2017

Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law program the only one of its kind in the country

Arizona State University student Zade Shakir is on a roll.

Two weeks ago he reported to work in Oakland as an intern for the Golden State Warriors. Last week they took the NBA championship title away from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“First week on the job and we’re the champs,” Shakir said. “What a job!”

A former collegiate soccer player and a self-described “sports junkie,” Shakir interns for the Warriors’ legal department, working directly under their legal counsel and team vice president. He has been busy reviewing vendor agreements, corporate sponsorships and even helped organize the team's victory parade on June 15, which cost the Warriors an estimated $4 million.

“It’s everything I thought it would be and more,” Shakir said. “I’ve found my calling.”

student standing in front of Golden State Warriors sign
ASU student Zade Shakir reporting for work on the first day of his internship with the NBA's Golden State Warriors.

Shakir got the job in large part through the help of the Master of Sports Law and Business at the Sandra O’Connor College of Law at ASU, the only graduate program in the country that combines sports law and business.

Recognizing that sports is big business, ASU Law partnered with the W. P. Carey School of Business and Sun Devil Athletics in 2014 to begin offering the one-year, 36-credit hour degree designed for students seeking careers in the sports industry.

Shakir is one of 48 students enrolled in the program, which has placed 100 percent of its current students in internships, clerkships, legal externships and as graduate assistants in a variety of positions.

That means the program, now in its third year, is batting a thousand.

“The internship is a culminating experience in an academic component,” said Glenn M. Wong, executive director of ASU’s Sports Law and Business Program. “It gives them the opportunity to implement what they’ve learned in the classroom in the field.”

Wong added that their placement percentage in these internships, which include professional sports franchises, collegiate sports and nonprofit businesses, are “recognition that the industry feels these people are prepared and it’s a credit to students to be qualified enough to land these positions in a highly competitive field.”

He also gave significant credit to Professor Sam Renaut, the program’s assistant director, who joined the program in 2015 and was one of the driving forces behind its creation as a student of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law from 2008-2001.

Renaut now spends a large chunk of his time talking to sports franchises and teaching students how to approach prospective employers.

“A lot of students will say, ‘I’m interested in this job. Do you know anyone there?’” Renaut said. “Chances are that we do.”

In the past few years, students have worked internships for NASCAR, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, Fiesta Bowl, Make-A-Wish Foundation and the NCAA.

Those possibilities exist because Renaut has spent years doing legwork in the sports and business community, knocking on doors, talking to sports and business executives, finding out what their specific needs are.

He said one of the things that franchises are facing is getting people to fill the seats at sports venues.

“Sitting on the couch in front of your 70-inch screen in an air-conditioned house is better to a lot of people,” Renaut said. “You don’t have to deal with traffic, pay for parking or concessions.”

And that’s where his students can offer help.

Renaut said niche efforts such as the Fan ExperienceThe Fan Experience is a variety of promotional opportunities to enhance a live sporting event. , social media and attracting a more diverse audience are rapidly expanding in sports. Young minds, he said, have their finger on the pulse of what entices new blood to attend a sporting event. 

In the case of 22-year-old Kwyn Johnson, a new Las Vegas hockey franchise is looking for her to help the build the brand as well as create a new following.  

Johnson started working for the NHL’s Golden Knights on May 15. In a month’s time she has written bios for their media guide, compiled a media list of contacts and worked on a “Kids for Sticks” community event that drew more than 1,500 local youth.

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ASU's Kwyn Johnson on top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, promoting the city's newest NHL franchise, the Golden Knights.

“Las Vegas historically has not been a hockey town, so education is huge,” Johnson said. “It’s an insane amount of work we’re doing every day and an insane list of things that need to get done. It’s crazy, but it’s a ton of fun.”

For 24-year-old Kelli Benjamin (pictured at top of this story), she has found that college sports is her calling mainly because of the academic component. Her internship is with ASU’s Office of Student Athlete Development, which helps keep athletes on track with their studies.

“Every student athlete has different goals, but I remind each one to think about the long term because some of them unfortunately won’t make it to professional sports,” Benjamin said. “Seeing them get to the overall goal of graduation is what I want for every one of them.”

It’s a vision similar to what Renaut has for his students, but his vision of graduation are students who land good jobs and passionate about their work.

“It’s important to educate our students, but it’s equally important they get good jobs,” he said. “The goal of the program is to get everybody to that next step.”


Top photo: Sports Law and Business graduate student Kelli Benjamin is working a summer internship mentoring football players; above, she and ASU safety Jeremy Smith are pictured at the Carson Student Athlete Center on May 23. Benjamin is a former collegiate swimmer and works in the Office of Student Athlete Development. Smith is in his second year and is studying business and sports media. All of Benjamin's Sports Law and Business classmates are accepted in internships. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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The CLASroom: Expert perspective on the future of presidential elections

June 27, 2017

Professors in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences share opinions on a range of topics in new video series

“How to register to vote?”

That was the second-most-searched “how to” question on Google in 2016. In the fast-paced age of information, people want answers now — as quickly as a question can be typed into a search engine. 

Registering to vote wasn’t the only question on society’s mind. This past election year in the U.S. elicited many different questions, from “What is a superdelegate?” to “What is the Electoral College?”

Now, professors in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will answer some of these questions for the public with a new video series. The CLASroom will explore a wide range of topics from the recent election to the bee colony collapse and everything in between.

Richard Herrera, a professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies, discusses the 2016 presidential election in the CLASroom pilot. Herrera, a political scientist with expertise on politics and political representation, dissects Donald Trump’s untraditional approach to presidential campaigning and offers insight on the future of presidential elections in the U.S.


“The 2016 presidential election was absolutely unique,” said Herrera, associate director of the school. “Donald Trump has no experience as an elected official and no experience as a candidate. He had no formal ties to the Republican Party. He used a completely untraditional approach, both in the primary election and in the general election against Hilary Clinton, and he won.”

Herrera notes the political party elites have run the presidential selection process since the 1820s. They have been responsible for structuring how elections take place and setting up the rules with regard to who can run and which campaigns will take place. But Trump’s campaign shattered all of it.

“Most Republican Party elected officials — senators, governors, House members — did not endorse Donald Trump. This used to be considered an essential piece of getting the nomination … yet Trump still won,” said Herrera. “He ran a campaign based on Twitter. He got his message out to his supporters and potential supporters through social media, which caught the attention of the media for free.”

Trump utilized his influence on social media along with more traditional campaign tactics, such as putting out yard signs, selling merchandise and hosting big political rallies, to broadcast his one-sentence slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

ASU Professor
Richard Herrera

“It’s a slogan that grabs people at a number of different levels,” said Herrera. “It gives the sense of we’re not where we’re supposed to be. Trump spoke to the fears of the American people with a message that we can do this and I’m the one to show you the way.”

Trump tapped into a sense of nationalism and populism among voters of different parties: Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc. He made the voters feel like they mattered and had someone who could carry their message forward.

“Even if the voters didn’t trust him completely, they were willing to overlook the flaws of the candidate to say, ‘Yes, but he speaks for me,’ which is something a strong candidate has to be able to do — be trusted by the American people to speak for them,” said Herrera.

While Trump ran against a traditional candidate who was endorsed by members of her own party, his unconventional approach to campaigning, which was based solely on himself and his personality, secured the trust of voters and landed him the presidency.

What does that mean moving forward? Has the U.S. changed the way presidents are elected? 

Herrera said the way we elect presidents in the future will largely depend on the candidates who come forward in 2020, 2024 and so forth. A Trump-like candidacy is certainty open for both parties, he said, but the candidate has to have certain characteristics that will earn the trust of the American people.  

“The role of political-party elites has diminished and is less important now than it was four years ago,” Herrera said. “Donald Trump opened the way for non-traditional candidates to play a bigger role in presidential politics than they probably thought possible.”