Nippon to Nike, Reflecting on the Oregon MBA Experience

The following post was written by Mitzi (Ing) Yonezawa, WSMC Class of 2013, and provides a recap of her experience in the Oregon MBA program.

Is it strange to say that I always knew I’d attend the University of Oregon? Since high school, I have wanted to attend UO. It took seventeen different countries, eleven years, three jobs, two GMAT exams, and one failed attempt at professional softball to bring me to Oregon, but I made it. Sports initially led me away from Oregon, but eventually also managed to bring me back. After six years of international relations experience in Japan, I decided to follow my passion and work in Major League Baseball. I decided that I needed to go back to school and earn my MBA.

“You can’t steal second with your foot on first.”

The only MBA program for sports business I applied to was the Oregon MBA. I saw the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center’s program as the best route to working in professional baseball and decided that if I didn’t get in, I would try again the following year. It was all or nothing. I interviewed via Skype from Japan with then-GTF Kelsey Philpott (’11) and Managing Director Paul Swangard, (neither of whom knew that I interviewed in athletic shorts and a suit jacket). I never took a campus tour or met with current students in person, I just knew that it was where I wanted to be. I put all my eggs into the Warsaw basket and thankfully, it was the right decision.

“You create your own luck.”

I had two main goals when I started the program: 1) work for a MLB team and 2) work at the World Baseball Classic (WBC). While they seemed lofty at first, I was able to achieve both goals through hard work, persistence, and networking. Yes, the dreaded networking. The sports industry, as with business in general, is all about who you know.

I always made sure to follow through on introductions, send thank you notes, ask for a project or shadowing opportunity, and always say YES because each experience will be a learning one. Most importantly, I was always genuine and appreciative. The first project for the WBC in creating a social media strategy helped me land an internship with the New York Mets. My Mets experience helped me get a PR role at the WBC at the first, second and championship rounds of the tournament. My involvement with Movember, work for the UO Athletic Department’s Quack Cave, attendance to conferences hosted by espnW, the International Olympic Committee, the Giving Back Fund, and the MLB Winter Meetings, social media management for the documentary “We Grew Wings” and participation in numerous intramurals filled up my schedule outside of class. All of these opportunities gave me invaluable experience in social media usage and analysis, brand management, marketing, and PR as well as and chances to develop my business soft skills.

“Things happen for a reason.”

I came to the OMBA wanting to impact people through sport and thought I would do so through community relations or PR in MLB. Ellen Devlin, my mentor and friend (the best kind of teacher!) made me realize that NIKE was a company where I could affect change and make an impact. Through her initial introduction to a friend, I learned about how NIKE is looking to change the game of baseball through servicing the athletes with premium and innovative product. Long story short, through informational interviews, side research projects and spending time on campus, I was inspired by the company. My education, international work experience, personal and professional contacts, athletic background, and passion formed the right combination the NIKE Baseball team was looking for in a team member to help take the category to a new level. I had found my career path and a new home in Oregon. 

“You are who you surround yourself with.”

The best part about the Oregon MBA? The people, by far. I truly believe that none of my accomplishments during my time in the program would have been possible without its motivational professors, hardworking staff, and my talented classmates, whom I call friends. Thank you to everyone, especially my husband, family, and friends. Look out world, here I come! Mahalo nui loa and Aloha!




Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.