Marcus Sedberry possessed a natural acumen for business while growing up in Dallas, Texas, but needed direction to apply it to his future career. It took a behavior management class with Dr. Gwendolyn Combs at the College of Business to build a foundation for his current job as a senior associate athletic director at Baylor University.
“I was the boy in high school whose locker was a vending machine,” said Sedberry. “I’d have snacks and drinks, and people knew they could stop by between classes and I’d sell you something. I’ve always been business-minded and wanted to know how businesses worked.”
After high school, Sedberry came to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to compete in track. When he took his first class from Combs, associate professor of management, his eyes opened not only to possibilities in management, but also to the possibilities within himself.
“Dr. Combs opened my eyes to the things I’m passionate about today. I wouldn’t apply myself in the classroom and she pushed me to be more than I could see in myself. She challenged me to respond to what she saw in me, so when I got my MBA, I found my greatest interest in organizational behavior classes,” he said.
After Sedberry gained an appreciation for how people operate, his leadership abilities gained a stronger foothold. Combs noticed it in class every day.
“Marcus would instinctively take the lead in group activities and be the spokesperson for his group,” said Combs. “He was not afraid to explore unfamiliar concepts and gain understanding. As a student leader on campus, he worked very hard to enhance the campus experience for students and set high expectations for the success of everyone.”
Today Sedberry works with student-athletes much like himself. He sees how both Combs’ focus on self-awareness and the field of behavior management continue to play an integral role in changing lives for the better.
“She always made sure I would see people for who they are, not just what they do. How do we help people get the most out of themselves? She instilled in me the understanding that those things matter, and you can tap into those pieces to get the most out of yourself and others,” he said.
Combs believes Sedberry is a perfect match for his job. She said his ability to connect with others taps into their capabilities and strengths.
“As he does for himself, he challenges others to be and do their best, to appropriately question the status quo to seek different and higher levels of achievement, and to approach problem-solving with an eye towards collaboration and innovation. Marcus has amazing communication skills with an ability to hear complimentary and divergent needs and perspectives, and make everyone feel they have been heard and respected,” Combs said.
Part of Sedberry’s ability to challenge others stems from his own challenges as a Husker athlete. With an identity wrapped up in becoming an Olympian, Sedberry suffered four stress fractures in his lower back. Keith Zimmer, a senior associate athletic director in life skills at Nebraska, brought Sedberry in to talk about life beyond the track team.
“He helped me realize I was more than an athlete,” he said. “Keith pushed me to get involved across campus. I learned I don’t have to be the guy in the jersey. I could be the guy in a suit and still be involved in athletics.”
Zimmer witnessed Sedberry’s ability to mentor others with the same care and concern he received at Nebraska. He sees his promise paying off in the lives of others.
“It’s been a source of pride to see the success Marcus has experienced since his time as a scholar-athlete at Nebraska,” said Zimmer. “He has all the intangibles to lead at the highest level. In addition to his leadership skills he’s relatable to diverse populations, hardworking, energetic, team-oriented and creative. There’s no doubt in my mind he will lead an athletic program in the coming years.”
Last fall, Sedberry returned to Nebraska to speak with Combs’ students as part of an event associated with the Multicultural Homecoming initiative organized by the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of People of Color. She knows the importance of passing the baton from alumni to current students.
“Marcus provided ‘real life’ insights to students on selecting careers, effectively searching for positions, successfully navigating organizational cultures and politics, how to showcase knowledge and skills, and how to transfer the learning from college to the world of work,” Combs said.
Guided by his values, Sedberry looks to impact his community. He co-founded the Hope for Stanley Foundation to provide volunteer opportunities in areas affected by natural disasters. He also authored “BE YOU! 10 Essential Qualities to Becoming an Exceptional You!,” and co-authored “100 Pioneers: African Americans Who Broke Color Barriers in Sports.”
“I have four core values centered around faith, family, competition and service. I look at every aspect of life through those four pieces. If I can go out and push people to be the best they can be then that is the greatest thing I can do today,” he said.
For more information about the Department of Management, visit: https://business.unl.edu/academic-programs/departments/management/.