The Experiences of a National Champion

Robert Waterbury

Gabby Garcia (’22) knew her career path in high school. Coming from a family deeply interested in sports, she knew she wanted to pursue a major in sport management. Already interested in business through classes in high school in Austin, Texas, she saw it as a way to combine two of her interests.

Her initial research led her to Loras College and its nationally recognized program.

In fact, before she ever visited campus, she was able to meet Matt Garrett, PhD, professor of sport management, and other Loras students at the Sport Marketing Association (SMA) Conference in Dallas. Despite their focus on competing at the conference, the students took the time to meet with Garcia and really convinced her that Loras was the place for her.

The significance of her first meeting with the Loras community at an SMA conference is not lost on Garcia. As a Loras student, she has competed at the conference three separate times with great results.

“For me to meet them there and then compete at SMA three times myself, including winning a national title feels right,” she said.

In all three visits, Garcia knows she has walked away with more knowledge of not only the business of sports but also about herself.

“During my junior year, we had a couple of mistakes in our presentation, but I learned to talk with confidence and believe in our ideas. When we won, I was shocked and didn’t know what to expect,” she said.

That winning presentation would land Garcia her first internship from two of the judges on the panel as a social media coordinator. She has also worked as an intern for Loras College Athletics, gaining a wealth of experiences behind the scenes of various College athletic programs.

For Garcia, the breadth of experiential learning opportunities has really shaped her Loras education. In addition to the SMA competitions, a top highlight was a January-term trip to Arizona. The week-long trip gave her and her fellow students behind-the-scenes access to facilities for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns, University of Arizona, and Top Golf. It was a combination of learning and camaraderie.

“On that trip, we were touring facilities every day. I really got to know my classmates well and we were able to continue the friendships and support forward. I now tell underclassmen, when they offer the trip again, they have to go. Having that opportunity was definitely one of my favorite experiences in the program,” she said.

Garcia also had the chance to bring all her learning and experiences together when she worked at the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in New Orleans in 2022.

“It kind of took my breath away. We were having a lot of fun while still working. It reinforced that I could enjoy being in a sports environment without being focused on competition or academics.”

Up next is working toward a master’s in business administration at Illinois State University with an eye to work with a professional sports team.

“I am not sure where I will end up, but I love to travel, and I am open to a new experiences wherever it may be. I know the sport management program here at Loras has prepared me well and I know I will stay in touch with Dr. Garrett and Dr. Marx. I am excited to see where life will take me now,” she said.

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