By Liz Warren-Pederson
The McGuire Entrepreneurship Program is an intensive, year-long experience that demands countless hours, dedicated teamwork, and top performance at high-stakes presentations to judges and angel investors. It’s no wonder that the program attracts tough competitors — not just honors students and extracurricular leaders, but intercollegiate athletes as well.
Two such athletes — tennis player Ariane Masschelein and distance runner Jordan Mara — completed the program this year.
“I was looking for a great tennis program as well as a good business school, and Arizona gave me both,” Belgian-born Masschelein said. In addition to completing the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program, she also finished her accounting degree in May.
“I wanted to learn more than just accounting,” she said. “I applied to the Entrepreneurship Program because I thought it would give me a broader view of business.” With the S.A.B. Manufacturingteam, which developed a plan to commercialize a technology to derive plastic from algae, she was able to get just that.
This was Masschelein’s fifth year, so she was not competing with the tennis team, but she did aim to stay in top shape. “I was generally going to class in the morning, training in the afternoon, and then doing homework and attending group meetings at night,” she said. The time management skills she honed as a student athlete paid off.
Masschelein has been accepted into the IESE Young Talent Program. “In the program, I’ll work for two or three years before getting my MBA at IESE,” she said. “It is a top-five program in Europe, so I’m very excited.”
After that, she plans to aim for a career in the sports industry. “I think that being a student athlete with a business background will help me to get into a great company,” she said. “In the long term, I would like to become an entrepreneur, and that’s where my experience at McGuire will be helpful.”
Distance runner Jordan Mara came to the UA from his native Vancouver for the track and field program. The marketing major said he heard a lot about the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program throughout his time at the Eller College. “It was clearly viewed as a prestigious program and I wanted to be a part of that,” he said. “Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, so it has always been in my life, and this seemed like a good stepping stone to begin my own entrepreneurial journey.”
Like Masschelein, Mara cites time management as crucial. “Life as a NCAA Division I student athlete is extremely taxing,” he said. “In the fall, we have workouts at 5:15 a.m., which last until 8.” At that point he would grab a bite to eat, shower, and head to class. In early afternoon, after class, he would try to finish homework before the second workout began at 5 p.m. “We would spend about an hour in the weight room in the evening,” he said. “Almost every Monday night, I would have a meeting at 7:00, and whether it was the Student Athlete Advisory Committee that I was the president of, or a captain’s meeting, the day never seemed to end! By the time I got home and ate, it was close to 9:00.” He’d finish his homework and try to get some sleep before repeating the routine.
“Track and field is such a physically demanding sport, and recovery is crucial,” he added. “If you aren’t getting eight hours of sleep every night, then your performances significantly decline.”
Mara said that apart from time management, the teamwork lessons he’s learned over the course of his time as a student athlete have translated to his schoolwork and beyond. “It’s been an honor to serve as a captain on the track and field team for three years,” he said. “We’ve gone from fighting to not get last at Pac10s to fighting for the Pac10 Championship — we lost to Oregon by 12 points this year. This transformation was the result of a culture shift from being complacent to being hungry.”
This shift gave him insight into team dynamics. “Dealing with all the issues along the way taught me how to manage relationships with teammates and how to get the most out of them,” he said. “I found that we had a very skilled venture team, but there were times that I had to appeal to my team members in order to most effectively progress on our project. Understanding one another’s nuances is pivotal in maintaining a healthy, working relationship.”
Mara graduated in May with degrees in marketing and entrepreneurship. He’ll spend ten weeks this summer with Nike, Inc. completing a second internship in the sports marketing track and field division. “There were a lot of positive takeaways from last summer and I am looking to build on those this coming summer,” he said.
Last summer at Nike, his primary duties included event planning, innovative idea generation, and professional athlete relationship management. “I had two big takeaways from the internship program,” he said. “First, who you know is just as important as what you know, so it is crucial to build, nurture, and grow relationships. Second, there is never a finished product, service, or task — becoming complacent results in competitors creating a better solution.”
Once the internship is over, Mara hopes it might lead to a full-time position. “It would be a dream job,” he said. “I’ve always been involved with sports and I’d like to remain involved as I move out of being a competitive athlete.”