"My professors say I've grown so much, and the fact someone takes time out of their day to stop and tell me that is incredible. I am so thankful I chose SAU. I don't know if I would have grown as much as I have anywhere else."
Kayla Crawford's drive to achieve and build on her strengths was elevated at St. Ambrose. When encouraged by faculty to explore a different major, she found a new career field overflowing with opportunity. The skills and experience she gained managing and coordinating sporting events as a student will take Kayla anywhere she chooses to go.
Hometown: Silvis, Illinois
Kayla started bowling at the age of four and through the years, met teammates and competitors who encouraged her to look at St. Ambrose. "I visited campus three times and fell in love every time." We offer degree programs in every field she was interested in, and Kayla enrolled as an exercise science major with plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy. However, during the first year she realized science was not her strength. Reminded of her interest in sport management, Kayla met with faculty to learn more.
What sparked you to change your major?
A professor suggested Kayla take the Introduction to Sport Management course, and soon, everything clicked. "I wasn't sure what you could do with a sport management degree, but then I learned I could be an athletic director, work for a professional football or basketball team, or in recreational sports. There is so much you can do." She added a minor in marketing and even took some sales classes. Now, Kayla is pursuing an MBA at SAU to strengthen her opportunities in the field, which could include managing a venue, directing park programs, marketing major golf tours, or coordinating Special Olympics bowling tournaments.
How did your internship and practicum expand your education?
Kayla helped coordinate the NAIA Men's Golf Nationals at TPC Deere Run during her practicum with the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau. She scheduled volunteers, created marking fliers, and met with local golf course managers to promote the event. She participated in planning meetings and was on-site during the tournament. For her internship, Kayla worked with the SAU Athletic Department, coordinating events including the Cheer and Dance Nationals and the Champions of Character service project for the cheer squad, which spent a day volunteering in local schools. "Everything I learned in my academic program I was able to translate into my practicum and internship."
Were you challenged at SAU?
Kayla took on a lot during her first year, and when things got hectic – with classes, working, practice, and traveling almost every weekend as a student-athlete on the bowling team – she realized she had limits. And, it was OK to talk about her struggles. "I definitely had a lot of support," she said. And once I changed my major to something I enjoyed, I was more motivated and it pushed me forward. I became happier." Many students find the support they need through Advising, Counseling, and the Career Center.
Why pursue an MBA?
"Earning an MBA broadens my opportunities and career path in sport management. I have a lot of interests." Kayla is a graduate assistant in the Accessibility Resource Center working with people with disabilities, which is something she's always been drawn to. Her dream is to broaden opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in competitive sports, such as bowling. Or, she may pursue a sales position with Brunswick, which is now sponsoring her as a pro bowler. She knows there are many, many paths she can choose, and she's prepared for each one. "I've grown tremendously since coming to St. Ambrose."