Once Joe Lanser graduated from the Bachelor of Science in Sport Management program at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, he had some reservations about continuing his higher education.
"I had professors who encouraged me to go for it and thought I could be successful as a grad student," he said. "I knew that I wanted to work in college athletics. One of the best ways to get into the business is through graduate assistant positions.
"The UW-Parkside athletic department had just created 14 new positions starting the school year after I graduated. I knew that it was the perfect opportunity for me to start my career."
Lanser landed a job as an events and operations graduate assistant and enrolled in the Master of Science in Sport Management program. After one year, he switched from the on-campus program to the fully online format to keep up with his work schedule. He is on track to complete the program in August 2020.
"I was working 50-60 hours per week," he said. "Sometimes I wouldn't be able to get home until 11:00 or 11:30 at night, so having the flexibility of the online classes was important. I appreciate having that flexibility."
The online format also allowed Lanser to accept a position as an athletic ticket operations assistant at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, in February 2020.
"I was able to find my next job before I got my master's degree," he said. "Having the program online was huge because it gave me the ability to do what was best for my career and stick with my academics."
Having a Ball
Lanser grew up a big sports fan in Green Bay. He played multiple sports in high school and worked as a men's basketball manager at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, where he started college, for two-and-a-half years.
"The coach there said, 'You are really good at a lot of the administrative stuff. Have you ever thought about working in sports for a career?'" he said. "He put the thought inside my head, and I realized it was what I wanted to do.
"When it was time for me to transfer, he encouraged me to go to UW-Parkside because it was one of two UW schools that offered a sport management program. It's also the only Division II athletics program in the state, which made it an easy choice for me."
So, Lanser enrolled without having so much as laid eyes on the campus. He did two internships in the box office and operations for the Green Bay Bullfrogs baseball team and was a student assistant for the UW-Parkside basketball programs during his undergraduate years.
"The thing I enjoyed most is getting to work where I was going to school, because I had such a vested interest in seeing it do well," he said. "It ended up being a great decision and everything I hoped it would be."
So far, HESM 711: Ethical Issues and Leadership in Sports is Lanser's favorite course in the MS in Sport Management program curriculum.
"When I took that course, I was working with a lot of student workers and had my first leadership role," he said. "So, while I was trying to lead my student workers, I was learning a lot about different forms of leadership."
Although Lanser has only had his first professional job for a couple of months, he knows that his education at UW-Parkside is preparing him to succeed.
"Dr. Bill Miller, who leads the sport management program, has such good experience in the field," he said. "He knows how to make you think deeper about the content. Everything that I have learned, I have been able to apply and, when I was in the classroom, see how it would apply to my career."
Even in the online format, Lanser believes building strong relationships with faculty members is especially important in the master's in sport management program.
"All of the professors I had at UW-Parkside have been amazing," he said. "I will stay in contact with them long after I graduate.
"Because it's a small school, they are able to give you one-on-one attention. If you can form a good relationship with your professors, they'll make such a big impact on your academics and on your future career."
Lanser hopes to return home to walk the graduation stage at UW-Parkside for the second time in two years. Until then, he is enjoying life and staying busy in Texas.
"I like Sam Houston State a lot," he said. "I like the people and the area. I love the weather right now, for sure. My dad has already told me he's flying down for a Houston Texans game."
Lanser also credits the sport management program at UW-Parkside with sparking his ambition as a student.
"My family and friends were pretty excited," he said. "They saw me grow as a student in my final two years of undergrad. I went from being an average student to putting myself in position to not just get into grad school but to be able to do well."
Eventually, Lanser would like to be an athletic director. He has no doubt that his experience at UW-Parkside will continue to pay dividends throughout his career.
"I had so many experiences I wouldn't have had anywhere else because of the size of the athletic department and the growth that's going on there," he said. "It set me up well when I was looking for my next job."
Learn more about the UW-Parkside online MS in Sport Management program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.