Growing up in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, a town just three miles east of the Hershey chocolate factory, Sullivan Bortner developed a passion for sports, especially for the game of baseball. He played on travel teams, fall league teams and his high school team until it was time to make a decision on where to go to college.
Now a first-year student in the master of arts in business with a specialization in intercollegiate athletic administration (MAIAA) program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Bortner had an easier time choosing a graduate program than he did picking an undergraduate school, mostly because of his desire to keep playing ball. He first attended Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, with the goal of playing college baseball. After just one semester, he left to attend Temple University in Philadelphia, thinking his playing days may be over. A year-and-a-half later, he had the unconquerable itch to play college baseball, so Bortner transferred to Becker College in Worchester, Massachusetts.
“My first college wasn’t a good fit for me,” said Bortner. “Bard is a great academic school but the social and athletic aspects of it weren’t for me. After spending a year and a half at Temple and working as the student manager for the baseball team, I realized that working with student-athletes was what I wanted to do. I also wanted to play college baseball again, so I looked at a couple options that would allow me to set myself up for future success.”
Bortner wanted to find a fit at a Division III school that offered a quality sports management program and an opportunity for him to join the baseball team. After talking to several coaches and touring five schools in the northeast, he chose Becker College to continue his collegiate career. He played there for two years while interning with the football team and in the Worchester Public Schools athletic department. Those experiences helped him gain admission into Nebraska's MAIAA program.
“My time at Becker gave me a chance to continue my baseball career while preparing for life after graduation," said Bortner. "I also learned that not all student-athletes have the same opportunities to succeed. Most Division III schools don't have the resources that a place like Nebraska has with the tutors, facilities and postgraduate scholarships. I want to be directly involved with the success of student-athletes so I can ensure that they have the best collegiate experience possible, both on and off the field."
Founded in 2014, the MAIAA program is the first of its kind to offer a funded master’s education with guaranteed graduate assistantships in the College of Business and Nebraska Athletics. Entering his second year of the program, Bortner will have a chance to get direct experience with the internal side of athletics in his graduate assistantship. He will split his duties between the Academics and Life Skills departments in Nebraska Athletics, which aligns with what he wants to do in the future.
“Although I eventually see myself at a smaller school, working in a well-respected Big Ten athletic department like Nebraska will give me the experiences I need to be able to market myself for jobs after graduation. I can't wait to get started in my second-year graduate assistantship and make a positive impact on student-athletes for a long time to come," he said.
Twelve students are admitted annually into the highly-competitive MAIAA program from across the country. The class of 2018 gradauted on May 5, making them the fourth MAIAA class to have graduated from Nebraska. The class of 2020 cohort is set to step on campus this fall.
To learn more about Nebraska’s MAIAA program and apply for admission in the fall of 2020, visit: https://business.unl.edu/maiaa