We had the opportunity to interview Dr. Robert Mathner about his ‘Leadership Principles in HSTM’ class at Troy University for our article ‘Role-modeling Success Strategies in Sport Management’. Dr. Mathner had so many valuable insights that we wanted to share this with you in this extended Q&A. Dr. Mathner reveals more about his own career, key lessons learned and how to help ensure students are in the best possible position to succeed upon graduation.
Dr. Robert Mathner is the Associate Professor, Undergraduate Program Coordinator & Coordinator of Sport Management School of Hospitality, Sport and Tourism Management, Troy University, Alabama. Robert and his colleagues use Athlete Assessments’ Sports ManagerDISC profiles in his ‘Leadership Principles in HSTM’ class.
What do you think sets your Hospitality, Sport & Tourism Management program apart from others?
Our program is very student centered and our Hospitality, Sport and Tourism Management (HSTM) faculty are very committed to providing a curriculum that allows them to be in the best possible position to succeed upon graduation. All of our HSTM faculty have relevant industry experience so we are sensitive to what prospective employers are looking for in students wanting to pursue a career in the HSTM industry. Our curriculum is very heavy on problem solving, establishing relationships and getting industry wide practical experience while in the program.
What is the best feedback you receive from your students about their experience in your program?
The best feedback really centers on three aspects of our program: 1) Our senior capstone course really prepares our students for the next chapter in their lives and careers in that we spend an abundance of time coaching them on how to write resumes and cover letters, and how to phone and face interview. Dozens of our students have been granted interviews and subsequently offered HSTM related professional positions/internships due to outstanding resumes, cover letters and job interviews. 2) Our curriculum is structured so that our students should have at a minimum three industry wide practical experiences before they apply for their first position after graduating. That sets them apart from other graduates looking for similar positions. 3) Our students are very appreciative of the fact that they are required to work on numerous group projects that require critical decision making and presentation skills. Our students know how to not only put a Powerpoint presentation together, but how to present in a professional manner.
What advice would you give someone starting out in their sport management career?
Without a doubt, students have to get a wealth of industry related practical experience prior to graduating. That often means working for free and volunteering their time, but that is the nature of the game. This also allows students to find out what they like, do not like and how their skill set(s) apply to the various industry niches.
What gets you excited about your role in the program?
I love to see a student work very hard at the undergraduate level, not only in the classroom, but as a volunteer etc., getting the various industry related experiences, and seeing that lead to a full-time position. Our job as faculty is to not only provide the students with the tools to be successful, but to motivate and encourage them when uncertainty is staring them in the face. My role is to not allow our students to strive for mediocrity but rather to strive to find their gifts and then use those gifts to excel. That’s why the Sports ManagerDISC assessment is so valuable to our students.
What have been the top 1-3 things that have helped you succeed in your own career?
Well, I was very fortunate to have people (wife included) who believed in me and my abilities when I did not have the confidence myself or when self-doubt crept in. So in that regard, what helped me to succeed both as a NCAA Division I Athletics Administrator and as faculty member is that I had a mentor(s) that provided me with sound advice throughout my career. The second thing that helped me was having a plan to get where I wanted to go. That plan included several options in case “Plan A” did not go the way I wanted. The third and most important thing that helped me succeed in both college athletics and as a faculty member is really understanding the value of cultivating and fostering meaningful relationships. People really do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Now sometimes that means you have to take on the role as a parent would, but once I got “IT”, my effectiveness increased tremendously, as has my satisfaction in what I do.
What you are most proud of?
Personally I am most proud that I was fortunate to marry the right person and have three incredible children who continue to amaze me. Professionally, in my college athletics practitioner career, I am most proud of not letting others change my values or let them define what is morally/ethically right or wrong. I have very high standards (I am a very high DISC “C”) and because of that, I was fortunate to meet the objectives and goals of what my Athletics Directors asked me to accomplish. That was no small task given the personalities I was working with and the pressure that was present at that level of college athletics. As a faculty member, I am most proud of the team we have here at Troy University. Our HSTM faculty all bring so many different strengths to the table and ultimately, our students benefit in so many ways.
How/why did you get into the role you are in now?
Somewhat by accident but I had positioned myself for this opportunity by earning my Ph.D. from The Florida State University. I had visions of becoming a NCAA Division I Athletics Director but through circumstances beyond my control, I was afforded an opportunity to become a faculty member teaching Sport Management at Troy University and I jumped at it. I really just wanted to make a difference and to be a small part of helping other students achieve their goals and dreams.
Can you share an ‘ah-ha’ moment in your career?
Been several but probably the birth of my second child made me realize that I needed more balance in my life and that I could not spend all my time at the office.
Do you have a favorite quote or saying that you draw on?
“It’s not how you start but how you finish.” and another I like is, “You can either complain that the rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.”
How has working with Athlete Assessments contributed to your program?
We incorporate the Sports ManagerDISC assessment in our ‘Leadership Principles in HSTM’ class. This course is taken early in the students curriculum and allows them to really get a sense for their behaviors (adapted and natural). Our curriculum is laden with group projects and often times, students do not choose who is in their group. As is often the case, the different styles within the group can be counterproductive if the students do not know how to interact with others who exhibit different styles. That is why DISC is so beneficial! Students become aware of themselves and others and discover techniques to engage so that the team objectives can be met. The other benefit from the Sports ManagerDISC is that from an interview process, our students can use the feedback from the assessment to better prepare for interview questions/interviews.
Any other comments about the work we’ve done with you or about us?
You all have been outstanding. It has been a great partnership and I know our students benefit from your service and follow-up.
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