Jessica Schafer-Thomas started tossing T-shirts. That action sparked an interest in sports marketing that has landed the recent Saginaw Valley State University graduate one of the most coveted internships in the industry.
A Clio native who earned a bachelor's degree in marketing, Schafer-Thomas is headed to New York City to participate in a coveted internship with the Manhattan Sports Business Academy, starting June 10. With only 25 spots available for the summer, Schafer-Thomas is among the select few to earn the highly competitive opportunity.
“I've never been to New York City so it's going to be a big change of pace for me, but I'm absolutely ecstatic,” Schafer-Thomas said. “I feel like this is what I'm supposed to be doing and SVSU definitely helped to set me on that path.”
The program runs eight weeks and requires participants to work full-time at their internship placement while also attending a weekly speaker series, receiving one-on-one mentorship with established sports industry professionals, and participating in weekend outings. Past internship providers include Madison Square Garden, the NFL, Red Bull, and the New York Mets among other prominent names in sports.
As the first SVSU student ever to be admitted to the prestigious program, Schafer-Thomas is grateful for the three years she spent as a sports marketing and promotions intern for SVSU Athletics. Responsible for all in-game promotions at football, basketball, soccer, and volleyball events, Schafer-Thomas earned herself a reputation around campus.
“I'm kind of known as the t-shirt girl,” Schafer-Thomas said with a laugh. “If you went to a basketball game over the past few years, chances are you saw me shooting T-shirts into the crowd. After my first year working with the athletic department, people started to recognize me around campus. It always made me smile.”
Jim Dwyer, SVSU executive director of alumni relations and a former SVSU men’s basketball player, served as a mentor to Schafer-Thomas.
“It was clear to me that Jessica was very driven to make her way in the sports marketing field,” Dwyer said. “She knew the value of experience outside of the classroom and that positioned her to get this opportunity. She took her weaknesses and parlayed those into strengths and then was relentless in making it happen.”
Beyond her internship, Schafer-Thomas was a member of the coed business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi. She also dedicated a great deal of her time to IMPACT, a Christian-based student organization. Schafer-Thomas volunteered for SVSU Athletics, as well, working at events such as SVSU's Community Youth Days clinics for grade school children.
Each year, SVSU students compete in a charitable fundraising competition against their counterparts from Grand Valley State University, known as Battle of the Valleys. A chance encounter helped lead Schafer-Thomas down her current path.
“I remember attending my first Battle of the Valleys event,” she said. “One of the students working the event asked me to participate in one of the promotions and I was on cloud nine. That was a surreal moment for me. It made me feel like I belonged and it helped to point me in the direction of what I really wanted to do.”
Schafer-Thomas feels prepared for her move to New York.
“SVSU has taught me to stay true to myself and trust my own abilities,” Schafer-Thomas said. “I love what I'm doing and, although getting here wasn't easy, I'm really proud of the fact that I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try.”
For more information on the Manhattan Sports Business Academy, visit https://gomsba.com/.