SMGT Holds Virtual 2020 Celebration to Honor Graduating Class

Congrats to the class of 2020

As the top-ranked program of its kind in the country, Rice's Department of Sport Management has earned great distinction for its ability to prepare students to excel and lead the future of the sport industry. On May 15, department faculty, staff, and students had the chance to celebrate their achievements and to recognize the students who have contributed to the department’s continued success.

class of 2020 virtual celebration

Each year, the Department of Sport Management presents three awards to honor students for their outstanding work in academic, extracurricular, and service capacities: the Patrick K. Thornton Memorial Award, the Jesse Tsu Sport Management Academic Achievement Award, and the Lindsay Roemmich Sport Management Achievement Award. These awards are traditionally presented at an awards ceremony hosted by the School of Social Sciences at the end of each spring, but this year, the Department of Sport Management held its own virtual celebration via video-conference.

With dozens of sport management students, faculty, and staff in attendance, the celebration began with a video recapping numerous Sport Management experiences and events worked by the students in the graduating Class of 2020. Featured events included the declaration of major ceremonies attended by each graduating student, student internships with organizations such as the Houston Rockets and Nike, and student-staffed events such as Super Bowl LI and the 2019 ESPYS.

After the video, students in the Class of 2020 had the chance to talk about their experiences with the program. Cole Derksen ’20, a transfer student from Vassar College who interned at Nike in summer 2019, recounted a story that he heard from his friends about Professor in the Practice Tom Stallings before he had transferred to Rice to major in Sport Management.

“They said, ‘freshman year, you go in, you tell him whatever organization, whatever you want to do, and by senior year, you will have gotten an internship with them,’ and while it seemed too good to be true, it actually ended up being true in my experience,” said Derksen. “I always wanted to work for Nike and Professor Stallings made it happen.”

Cole Derksen '20 Nike

Graduating seniors Natalie Zur ’20, Adria Martinez ’20, Samantha Quen ’20, Jesse Roberts ’20, and Frank Li ’20 also spoke about their experiences with the Department of Sport Management, reflecting fondly on their years with the program and thanking their professors and peers for cultivating a challenging but supportive atmosphere.

“When thinking of some of my favorite Sport Management memories, I have an entire list filled with them, and that makes me feel super grateful that I’ve had all of these opportunities and experiences that you really wouldn’t get anywhere else with any other school or department,” said Quen.

Sport Management alumnus Sergio Santamaria ’18 also attended the celebration, and he described the experience of continuing to be a member of the Sport Management team even after graduation.

“I tell people all the time that Rice is the best thing that ever happened to me, and the biggest reason for that is the Sport Management Department,” said Santamaria. “There will be a point, if there hasn’t been already, where it really hits you how special this department is and how valuable the connections and the relationships are. It’s a community, it’s a family, and one that I know I’m very eternally thankful to be a part of.”

The presentation of awards began with the Patrick K. Thornton Memorial Award, which is awarded to the Sport Management major who earns the highest grade in each semester of the Sport Law course taught by Lecturer Kit Ashby. This year’s award recipients were John Brown ’20 for the fall semester and Kristian Stengel ’21 for the spring semester.

Next, Department Chair Clark D. Haptonstall, Ph.D. presented the Jesse Tsu Sport Management Academic Achievement Award, which is given to the graduating senior who holds the highest cumulative grade point average within the Department of Sport Management. This year’s Jesse Tsu Award recipient was Frank Li.

Lastly, the Lindsay Roemmich Sport Management Achievement Award was presented by the award’s namesake and founder, Lindsay Roemmich Martz ’04. The Roemmich Award is given to the graduating senior who best exhibits academic excellence, external sport management experience, positive attitude, and dedication to improving the Department of Sport Management.

The 2020 Roemmich Award was presented to both Samantha Quen and Jesse Roberts, making this year just the third time in the award’s 15-year history in which two students shared the honor.

The celebration ceremony concluded with some words of advice and farewell from each of the Sport Management faculty and staff members in attendance.

“Go forth with the confidence that you’re good enough, smart enough, and talented enough to achieve anything you want in your career,” said Lecturer Carrie Potter. “Keep dreaming, and keep believing in yourself. We’re sending you off with all of the skills and tools you need to be successful, and we can’t wait to see that success blossom over the next few years. Congratulations!”

Congrats to the class of 2020

Elliot Stahr, a senior from Irvine, California, is majoring in Psychology and Philosophy.