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USF’s Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program Continues to Innovate Despite COVID-19 Challenges

USF Sports Biz Podcast

TAMPA (May 20, 2020) – Despite the ever-growing challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presents to higher education, the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program continues to innovate, kicking off a new podcast partnership with “Life in the Front Office.”

“COVID-19 has affected all of our lives,” said program director Michelle Harrolle. “It has been my mission to make this transition to virtual learning over the summer as smooth as possible. We have all had to adapt, and this podcast is a bright and shining success born out of a difficult situation.”

As the Muma College of Business looks for ways to keep students engaged in virtual learning, Harrolle turned to a podcast as a sport business development tool for her students. With the help and guidance of “Life in the Front Office” Executive Producer Jake Hirshman, the pair put together a series called, “USF Sports Biz: Building the Next Gen.”

“We wanted to find a unique way to give back during this time as students are having to learn differently and programs are having to adapt,” said Hirshman. “The partnership fits our mission of providing advice and insights to all. We are excited to collaborate and hopefully impact students and alumni that are in the industry. We believe this is just the start.”

The project includes 10 episodes and will touch on subjects like networking, building your passion, personal branding and even transitioning from grad school to the ever-daunting job search. The podcast features a varied group of guests including USF Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly, sports business professionals in the Tampa Bay area, as well as successful alumni of the Vinik program.

The podcast goes live Mondays at 10 a.m. It can be found on,

Apple Podcasts as well as Spotify.

Full list of guests

Episode 1

  • Luke Mohamed – director of Partnership Sales at the Pittsburgh Penguins

Episode 2

  • Michael Kelly – vice president of athletics, USF
  • Yulander Wells – senior associate director of athletics, USF

Episode 3

  • Claire Lessinger – vice president of events, Tampa Bay Sports Commission

Episode 4

  • Steve Griggs – CEO, Tampa Bay Lightning

Episode 5

  • Shelly Wilkes – president, Lakeland Magic

Episode 6

  • Michelle Harrolle – USF Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management director

Episode 7

  • Derek Watford – esports developer, Esports & Strategic Branding Consultant

Episode 8

  • Russel Clayton – instructor, USF

Episode 9

  • Cory Bernstine – director of Marketing and Business Strategy, Minor League Baseball
  • Stephanie Paladino – director of Partnership Marketing, Minor League Baseball

Episode 10

  • Philica Douglas – manager of Inside Sales, New Orleans Saints

The USF Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management Program (VSEM) is a dual-degree graduate program in the Muma College of Business. The program ranks No. 3 in the US and No. 4 in the world according to the Sport Business Postgraduate Rankings.  VSEM offers students a unique opportunity to make the most of the saturated sports market in the Tampa Bay Area as they work in an experiential learning environment. The program boasts a 99% Job placement rate within 6 months of graduation.

Life in the Front Office Podcast brings together respected industry leaders with decades of experience in the business of sports with co-hosts Fred Claire, Andy Dolich and Pat Gallager along with executive producer Jake Hirshman to shine a light on the sport and entertainment industry operates, as they share their experience.