The University of Nebraska–Lincoln and University of Nebraska Foundation hosted the Big Ten Development Conference July 22-24. UNL College of Business Administration Dean Donde Plowman and University of Nebraska director of athletics Shawn Eichorst presented on “Cooperation and Collaboration Between Academics and Athletics” on Friday, July 24. Considered by many in attendance to be the highlight of the conference, Plowman and Eichorst were able to share their insights on collaboration in the areas of academics, co-sponsoring events and joint fundraising opportunities.
“At most universities the academic side of the house and the athletic side of the house actually don’t have much to do with each other,” said Plowman. “As Shawn Eichorst told the audience, we are one house. In our college at UNL, we embrace the opportunity to collaborate with the Nebraska Department of Athletics, because we ultimately want the same thing – a vibrant community of students, alumni, business partners and donors who take pride in what we are doing and want to be a part of something special. It makes sense for us to work together to achieve our goals.”
The two departments began extensive collaboration when Eichorst took the reins of the athletic department in January of 2013. He understood the importance a strong college of business has with the recruitment of the best athletes and top donors to the program. He and Plowman have combined forces to share donors and prospective students, sponsor events and create an academic partnership which includes the master of arts in business administration with a specialization in intercollegiate athletics administration. Students in this unique program have the opportunity to learn from the world renowned MBA faculty and intern with one of the top athletic departments in the nation. In addition, a retail business lab located in CBA for Husker Athletics is in the works for the future.
Eric Putman, director of advancement in the College of Agriculture at the University Development Office at the Purdue University, was impressed with the collaborative work being done in Lincoln. “The Big Ten Development Conference exists to encourage collaboration and inspire creativity and innovation. The presentation by Dean Donde Plowman and Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst put on display a great example of the potential which exists when academia and athletics work together. I appreciated their candor in fielding our questions and the clear affinity they have for trying new programs and initiatives including the launch of a new master's program in intercollegiate athletics administration and embedding the retail business lab in the new CBA facility.”
Duff Ridgeway, executive director for regional gifts and special university initiatives at The University of Iowa Foundation, added, “Donde and Shawn provided an excellent example of how partnerships can be created and grown for the pure benefit of our students and student-athletes. It was a great reminder for all of us in the Big Ten.”
Marcia Crawley, director of regional development at Michigan State University, explained, “Shawn Eichorst and Dean Plowman are creating a model for all of us who are raising funds in universities with large athletic programs. I hope their powerful example of collaboration to best serve donors will influence their peers across the Big Ten.”
Approximately 20 percent of the student-athletes at UNL are business majors with many of them achieving success both athletically and academically. Last year, 49 of the 205 student-athletes who earned academic All-Big Ten honors were business majors. Overall, Nebraska leads the nation with 320 academic All-Americans and 17 NCAA Top Ten Award Winners. The athletic department and CBA are both in the business of education and can help each other recruit the best students through academic excellence and a sense of community pride and spirit.
“When you think about it academically, having a new business school will be a game changer for us athletically as we continue to recruit the best and the brightest,” Eichorst said. “The athletic department is pleased to partner with CBA on the newly created master’s in intercollegiate athletic administration program. Collaborating with one of the finest business colleges in the Big Ten and taking a leadership role in helping prepare the next wave of intercollegiate athletic administrators is central to our mission.”
Katelyn Storms, assistant director for alumni relations and special events at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis, summed up the presentation best with the following tweet: “I think that @DeanPlowmanCBA and @Huskers AD Shawn Eichorst should have their own radio show. Hilarious. Best session at @advancebig10.”