Manpower at Gen W

By Candace Moody
Some UCF DeVos Sport Business Management representation at #GenW

Some UCF DeVos Sport Business Management representation at #GenW

If you attended Gen W 2014, you saw over a thousand women at the venue in the meeting rooms and the hallways, connecting and laughing and learning. What you didn’t see were throngs of men. Sure, we had some male attendees, but many were there as volunteers, speakers or supporters of the event staff. So when I was joined at my breakout table during’s presentation by two young conference attendees of the male persuasion, they piqued my interest.

Paul Bland is 27 years old, a military veteran, and a graduate student at the University of Central Florida’s DeVos Sport Business Management Program. When he finishes the program in December, he’ll have an MBA and a Master’s in Sport Business Management. He and a student colleague (JP Haney; more about him in another post) traveled to attend Generation W to learn and be inspired along with the thousand women in attendance.

They came at the suggestion of Dr. Richard Lapchick, who was a speaker at Gen W and also the Endowed Chair and Director of the UCF program. He offers a distinguished speaker program for the DeVos program, but since he was traveling to Jacksonville on April 4, he suggested that his students attend also and hear a whole lineup of distinguished speakers.

UCF’s DeVos program has a list of core values that they integrate into every class and imbed into every graduate’s psyche. They include: leadership, character development and teamwork, access, diversity, and inclusion, citizenship, service and selflessness, social justice, respect, integrity and optimism.  Paul Bland cited them from memory for me during our conversation; it’s obvious that he sees them is important not just for a sports management career, but for a life well lived.

It’s one thing to be able to name the values; it’s another to embrace them. Paul plans to work as a collegiate Athletic Director after he finishes the program, and attended Gen W because he wanted to immerse himself in a room full of people who didn’t think like him. “For one of the first times in my life,” he told me, “I was one of just a couple of men in a big room of women. I was the minority –  I stood out in the crowd. It was a new experience for me, and one that I think was important. In sports leadership, I think many women have that experience – being a minority voice, an outsider.”

Paul chose sports as a profession because it’s one of the things that got him through his deployment in Iraq during his service in the U.S. Army. Watching sports broadcasts from back home gave the soldiers something to cheer about, and Paul says following his home team kept him going during some tough times.

He sports a ring commemorating Ohio State’s 2012 undefeated football season (he worked on staff at the university’s athletic department that year.) But Paul knows that college sports are in transition, and collegiate leaders need to think differently about how sports affect the students, academics, and the campus culture.  “I want to be the kind of athletic director that gets just as excited about a women’s golf championship as I do about men’s football winning the BCS.”

Dr. Lapchick spoke to an enthralled Gen W audience about how sports serve as a model for society and social change. He would know; he was brutally attacked in 1978 by thugs who wanted to stop his efforts to boycott of South African participation in international sport evens. They broke several bones, but not his spirit, and now he is passing that moral courage on to the next generation.

Paul feels privileged to study under Dr. Lapchick and was proud to sit in the audience to hear him speak. He came away from Gen W with a sense of awe at the energy in the room and how connected the women were with each other.  “I don’t get that same energy from the groups of highly successful men I’ve been around,” he says. “Maybe they should try something like this.”

Maybe they should.