Sunday, May 22, 2011

Into the Mud Challenge

Just over two weeks ago, my Sport Event Management class at the University of Southern Maine held the inaugural Into the Mud Challenge. It was a 2.5-mile 16-obstacle mud run (you have NO IDEA how many times I said this, typed this, heard this) put on completely by students. We did absolutely everything from start to finish and I couldn’t be more proud of my fellow classmates. This damn thing consumed my life. Ask anyone who has seen me in the past five months. This consummation was definitely my own fault – I took on the position of Race Director – but I mean Event Management is what I want to do with the rest of my life.

Alright, on with this Into the Mud Challenge thing.

We started planning this back in September but really kicked it into super-high gear in January. I should have known this class was going to be high stress when we had a legit argument about what to call this event during the first class meeting. Good thing my side won and we ended up with Into the Mud Challenge. Haha.

Throughout the rest of this post I’m going to refer to a lot of people so let’s get it straight who they are now.

My Justins. Yup, for five months, I had two Justins. Haha. They were my right-hand guys and I could count on them for everything. They were two of the Race Managers and did a phenomenal job with all things race course and festival area. I seriously think I had 50 phone conversations, maybe more, with each of them the week leading up to the event.

My guys/dudes/men. Again, I’m taking possession of people. These guys I refer to were my Event Operations group. Looking back, I couldn’t be happier with the group that I was assigned to. We made fun of each other (well, they made fun of my pink rain boots), we laughed, I baked them cookies, they drove me crazy, I know I drove them crazy, we complained, we gave each other nicknames (that’s for you, Big Jon!), and laughed every time someone said ‘where are the hoes’ without the word ‘garden’ in there, but we got it done and had a great time doing it.

My professors. We were lucky to have two wonderful ladies guide us through this entire process. While I admit I sometimes wanted to freak out at them, thankfully for all involved, I didn’t.

Back to event preparation. In the four weeks leading up to the May 7 event, my guys and I were out there all the time. I’m not kidding when I say this. Every so often we had the privilege of some additional classmates, but for the most part it was us, a whole lot of landscaping tools and the woods. I became one with nature, used an axe, started a rototiller, got a farmer’s tan, found a tick or two on me, but I’m proud to say I never peed in the woods!

Here’s Brett cutting branches off a tree we ultimately cut down anyway. Haha.

As the event got closer, one of the Justin’s appeared on local television show, Good Day Maine, with me. The five-minute segment went super quick and I’d say we pretty much dominated that thing. Don’t we look cute? (Note the sarcasm. Horrible job freezing us, FOX)
More course prep … Justin, Kevin and Nick tearing up and soaking down the course with a fire hose. Actually, it looks more like Kevin and Nick watching Justin do all the work, but does it really matter now? Haha.Oh and take a look at this … the beginnings of the giant mud pit that greeted participants at the end.Now for the actual event. It. Was. Great. We had 362 people – 162 more than we had originally hoped for! Everything went completely flawless and I couldn’t be happier with its success. Putting on this event required a whole new level of dedication – My car turned into a utility vehicle, I wore rain pants, I picked up landscaping tools at 10:30 p.m. on a Thursday night, I thought about tarps before I fell asleep, dreamt about the event and pushed the heaviest cart ever around Wal*Mart.

Here are some great pictures from the event:Danielle and Hayden!! I know you wish you were here. We actually wish we ran it, too. Maybe we’ll make an appearance next year, but we were busy making sure everything went smoothly this time around. Here’s one of my Justin’s and I post-event.Justin and I were actually so close to running the course the night before but instead got an ‘emergency’ call for help from our professors moments before we went out. I didn’t really think it was a huge deal, but Justin rushed me along and come to find out it was. Slightly more of a humorous emergency, but still an emergency. When one of my professors tried to loosen a spigot on a nearby building, it came loose and 90 pounds of water pressure flew out of the building and did not stop. I wasn’t about to attempt to fix this, but poor Justin tried to shove the spigot back in there. No dice. Luckily we had a call-this-in-case-of-emergency number and literally washed our hands of it. I wish I would have taken pictures of this, but sadly, I didn’t.

I was so happy to have both my friends and family there to support me day of. Here I am with Misty (volunteer) and three participants: Misty’s son Zach, Veronica and her daughter.

Veronica and Arianna definitely get props for the event’s cutest picture! Apparently Arianna was not loving it, but her marathon-running mom was not about to let her quit. So. Cute. And here’s one of my favorite teams. We’ll call them The Doctors. My sister, her boyfriend and her friend.Check out this action shot of my sister absolutely LOVING the mud. Haha.
And another, Team Olive Garden, complete with green linens crossing the finish line. They look great and had so much fun.And here’s my entire class, complete with our professors, post-event: For most of my classmates, this was just another class they took. For me, this was something that helped to confirm my future. It could have been the relief that it was over or it could have been the fact that I didn’t sleep the night before, but I actually felt kind of emotional at the end. I was so pleased with everything Into the Mud Challenge and glad it wasn’t a huge flop (believe me, I worried about that happening a lot). Every instinctive decision I made seemed to be the right one and I am confident in my ability to lead. Now that it’s all said and done, I think I really could make this my career. With the help from a couple friends, of course.

In the days following Into the Mud Challenge, I got two messages that meant the world to me. The first, from my former internship boss, in which he shared how impressed he was with the event. He told me it was very well run, had great numbers and was so much fun. The second came from a friend who participated simply because our friends were, too. The next morning, I woke up to, ‘That picture you posted on my wall is great! I had such a great time yesterday!’ This girl is not a runner, nor do I think she wants to be and that’s why I was so happy that she has fun. If we were able to create an event that someone out of the target demographic enjoyed, then hands down, it was a success.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hey there, Grad School

Two years ago, one of my trusted professors told me that I should seriously consider attending graduate school upon completion of my undergrad at USM. At that time, I was convinced that I would be continuing my education in journalism – specifically broadcast. I had wanted to be a sportscaster since I was oh, about, five years old, so that’s what I was going to do. Then, last spring, I took a sport marketing class as part of my business administration minor and BOOM! I was in love with all things sport management. Long story short, I interned at a sport event management company over the summer and focused my final year taking each and every sport management class I could. I decided at the beginning of last summer that I wanted to pursue my love for sports and advance my education through a master’s in sport management.

And that’s where the fun, er, total stress-laden, anxiety-filled, scary, exciting seven-month search began.

It all started on October 23rd when I got a whopping 950 on my GREs. Definitely was not expecting that. I read somewhere that average was 1000 so needless to say, Andrea felt like a giant idiot. After more investigating, I realized that it would probably be a good idea to take the GMAT, especially since I bombed the first set of standardized tests. Well, that went about as well as the GREs. Once again, scored just below the 500 average with a 490. COME ON! I was not impressed. The idiot complex soared, but I wasn’t about to take either of them again, nor did I have the time. So, on I went to applying.

The University of Central Florida was due January 15 and at the time, it was my first choice. Warm weather, Orlando Magic, great program, hundreds of miles away – how could I go wrong?

Syracuse University and University of Massachusetts were next. Syracuse … I’ve wanted in here since I was a kid. A few of my friends have attended and were huge advocates, along with my sports professor. Unfortunately, the Cuse does not have a sport management master’s program, but they do have the top broadcast and digital journalism program in the country. I had to apply. I mean, sports broadcasting has been my dream forever and I couldn’t give up on it that easily. February was definitely a month for applying to the country’s top programs. UMass was a super duper looooong shot as one of the top two sport management programs in the country. It was the second ever established and I figured since I was doing all these other applications, what was one more?

Ithaca College was due by March 1 and then South Carolina followed with a summer due date of July 1. I was in the application groove and hammered those two out right after Syracuse and UMass. I really, really liked Ithaca – it’s program, the highly-recommended staff, the city, the opportunity – but I’ll admit, the fact that it’s in the New York snow belt was not cool. South Carolina on the other hand – great weather, Division I sports – sounds pretty good, huh? Didn’t really love their program, but one of my trusted professors said it was a top school, so add that to the list.

Then came the hard part, the wicked hard part, if you will. Waiting. Waiting. And more waiting. You can ask any one of my friends, family members, gym girls, co-workers, classmates, you name it. I. Was. A. Wreck. It’s all I thought about and all I could focus on. Two of my best friends had already been accepted and I couldn’t stand waiting. Alesia had gotten at least three acceptances before I got my first response.

It was just days after I sent my application to UMass that I opened my e-mail to find a message from the UMass Graduate Office. My heart sank and my stomach fluttered. When I saw it, I was sitting in a meeting, one that I was supposed to be leading, and I contemplated for a good five minutes whether or not to open it. I have no idea what happened in those five minutes, but I opened it. Bad. Idea. In big, and when I say big, I mean size 72 font, red letters, I saw the word DENIED. Oh man. I didn’t know what to do. (Note to self: Never open an e-mail determining your future during a meeting. I was toast after that.) The only thing that made this okay was that I knew it was my long shot and I didn’t expect to get in anyway.

Days went by and I eventually got over it. That is, until I received another gem in my inbox, this time from Central Florida. My heart raced (this could have been because I had just returned from a run), my stomach ached and I clicked it. After reading the first sentence, I knew where this was going. ‘Thank you for your application…yada, yada.’ I was 0-for-2. Immediately, the tears poured out of my eyes and I followed that with the longest shower I had in a long time. I was devastated. At that point, I had convinced myself that I was going to Olive Garden University and was going to turn into the biggest townie this place had ever seen. I could see it – Friday night football games, wearing my high school colors around town, hooking up with former boyfriends, looking forward to grocery shopping, etc. I was a mess.

A couple days later I met with my trusted professor and nearly had a breakdown in her office. She pretty much told me to chill out in a nice, understanding, caring, sympathetic way. She gave me a couple more schools to apply to that didn’t have as she said, ‘such high requirements.’ Leave it up to me to apply to some of the hardest schools in the country without a safety school for backup. After much investigating, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to apply to the University of Louisville. My professor couldn't stop talking about it and said it would be a great place for me. The timing was actually perfect – I was days away from visiting a friend who is enrolled in the same program I would be and so I scoped it out with different eyes.

Just before I left and days after my professor-led counseling session, I decided to check the Ithaca database to see if I had been denied from a third straight school (I know, so positive). Funny thing happened. The database loaded and next to my name was one word that read: Accepted. ACCEPTED?! WHAT?! REALLY?! I didn’t believe it, obviously. I even took a picture and sent it to three people – my two friends that were recently accepted into grad school and my one friend that was already attending Louisville. They confirmed that I wasn’t nuts and so the celebration began. I was the only one in my house at the time but Katy Perry and I did a whole lot of dancing and singing to ‘Firework’ that afternoon. I was on cloud-freaking-nine for a couple of days/weeks. I pretty much felt like Rocky when he got to the top of the Art Museum’s 72-step stairway.

Oh and in the midst of all this, I went to and came back from Louisville. I had a great time and could totally picture myself there (the 4th Street bar scene might have had something to do with this). And so I applied.

Then came my acceptance, yes acceptance, to Syracuse. I was one of a dozen students to get accepted to the best broadcast journalism program in the country and I was thrilled. Even though this wasn’t my first choice, I was extremely happy and seriously considered switching my entire career path. I hated the thought of completely throwing away a dream that I had since I was in kindergarten, so I did some investigating. Once again, timing played a huge part in helping my decision. I spoke several times with two local news anchors (one of which does sports) and even took a little field trip to one of the stations. I also appeared on a local news show to promote a mud run my sport event management class was putting on. All of those conversations, experiences and interactions with broadcast news confirmed my love for sport management. I no longer wanted to be the outsider looking in, searching for information and reporting it to information-hungry consumers. I wanted to be the information source, the one in charge of the action, telling the media that the athletes aren’t ready for their questions yet. And that’s what I’ll do. Too bad, cause I would have looked damn cute in this: (I’m sure Danielle is in agreement.)

In the meantime, I was awarded a graduate assistantship at Ithaca working with the Head of Athletics. It would cover nearly half of my tuition and give me a stipend. This snowy city was sounding a whole lot better each day. Oh, I almost forgot! Speaking of snow, the day after I returned from Louisville, my mom and I drove to eight hours to Ithaca. I was scheduled to meet with the department head, professors, get tours and experience the city, but Mother Nature dropped a foot of snow on the city and I had to get out of Dodge quickly. I really liked what I saw, even if it was in shades of white, so I felt a lot better about the possibility of becoming an Ithaca Bomber (seriously, who comes up with mascots?). However, I was able to talk with the department head and she said everything I wanted to hear about the curriculum, internships, her connections and my future. (I bet you know where this is going…)

To make a really long story short, I was also accepted at South Carolina and Louisville. South Carolina has offered me two assistantships, one of which covers the entire two-year tuition, but I just don’t love their program. Oh and going with this mascot thing … they are the Game Cocks ... and in the words of Kevin from 'Home Alone,' 'I don’t think so.' Then again, I could wear this shirt …

I have yet to hear about financial awards or graduate assistantships from Cardinal Nation, but unless it’s handed to me on a silver platter (thanks, Andrew!), you can find me donning blue and gold at Ithaca. On paper it seems like this decision was easy, but it was one of the toughest I have ever made. Just ask that laundry list of people I previously mentioned.

There will be so much more on this in the coming months. You know, the sappy, exciting, can’t-wait-to-leave, don’t-want-to-leave, what’s next, etc. Get. Ready.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lots of Recapping on the Way ...

Judging by the fact that I haven’t posted in four months should tell you a little something. I. Have. Been. So. Busy. Just ask my friends that I see every few months. Ya, I said it, months.

I’ve realized that my absence has left several important things unwritten, so allow me to catch you all up. In the upcoming days (let’s be honest, it’s probably going to be weeks), I’ll update you on all things Andrea. Here’s a little tease for those of you who are absolutely itching to get back to reading about my life.

Graduate School: After months and months of deliberation, I have finally decided where to continue my graduate career. This entire process was a complete and total rollercoaster ride – the good, the bad, the really bad, the happy, the sad, the relief, the fear and the excitement. This post will be pretty intense. Into the Mud Challenge: This 2.5-mile mud run put on by the University of Southern Maine’s Event Management class absolutely consumed my life for the past four months. The event went down as a huge success on May 7 and it did more for me than just record three college credits. It was so worth it in the end and I couldn’t be more proud of the guys (and handful of gals) I worked with. Here's a little preview of the giant mud pit we had at the end ...

Graduation: The culmination of 4.5 years in less than three hours. I can’t believe it’s over and I’m truly sad to be done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy I’m done and proud of my accomplishments, but I was an emotional wreck the entire week leading up to the ceremony. Here's a quick pic Kristen snapped of me en route to get my diploma:
Wrap it up: If you’ve been in college the last four years, I’m sure your mind goes to the wrong places when you hear that phrase. However, I’m taking the high road here, sharing with you the ups and downs of my college career. I’ll document my favorite things, what I’ll miss, the important lessons I learned and why southern Mainers shouldn’t knock good ole’ USM.

My Gym Mom(s): Started writing this guy a few days ago and I’m sure I won’t be able to finish it until the days before I leave simply because it makes me sad. This post is dedicated to four lovely ladies that I share almost each and every gym session with. They’ve taught me so much, supported me, laughed at me, pushed me and I don’t know what I’ll do without them next year.

So ya, all of that and more on the way. I’ve been closing doors and opening new ones all week, all month, all year. I’ve put a lot behind me and I have even more craziness ahead. All this reflecting, looking back and looking ahead made me realize what this weekend signifies … the running of my first marathon AND the start of this beautiful, slow-growing blog. Happy future reading!!