Tim Rice is San Diego State University’s senior associate athletic director for development. Rice earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations in 2007. After graduating, he moved west for a graduate assistant position at the University of California, Berkeley, while earning a master’s degree in sport management at the University of San Francisco.
“My passion for college athletics started at Grand Valley. I loved the passion, emotion and the impact athletics makes on the lives of student athletes,” Rice said.
While at Grand Valley, Rice worked for Doug Lipinski, deputy director of Athletics, and learned how to attract students and fans to games. “I remember my interview with Doug. He asked, ‘What will you do to make this a better place?’” Rice said.
What Rice did was serve as the first “director of Laker Nation,” he said, planning events for students to increase excitement about GVSU Athletics.
“I learned core leadership skills and the fundamentals of this industry. Doug and (former athletic director) Tim Selgo taught me the purpose of why we do this. It’s about creating community and supporting students,” Rice said.
Rice brought those skills to his current position and in 2020 was named Fundraiser of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. In 2019, Rice secured a $15 million gift toward construction of a new community stadium for the Aztecs. Then COVID-19 shut down the sports world.
“My message to our staff during the shutdown was to focus on your relationships with donors, coaches and colleagues. This industry is built on relationships, right now it’s all about caring,” he said.
In the summer, Amber J. Hutson started a new job as an Olympic marketing account executive for GMR Marketing. Based in New York, Hutson consults with Intel Corp. about utilizing their rights as a Worldwide Olympic Partner.
Hutson had worked for Major League Baseball as a partnership activation coordinator. She joined MLB in January 2020, just prior to a COVID-19 lockdown in New York City.
“I loved working for MLB but I wanted to shift to a role that allowed me to gain more experience outside of digital marketing and partnerships,” Hutson said.
At Grand Valley, Hutson worked for Laker Athletics selling tickets and, later, the West Michigan Whitecaps. At both organizations, she learned customer service was key.
“The Grand Valley fans are awesome,” Hutson said. “Sometimes, someone might be having a bad day, but we still want to give them that great Grand Valley service. It was instilled in us.”
After graduating in 2016 with a degree in advertising/public relations, Hutson moved to Florida and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a part-time role on the street team. She would drive to Tampa from Orlando, nearly two hours away, where she lived and worked part time in guest relations for the Orlando Magic and in marketing for the Orlando City Soccer Club.
“I’ve always been very determined and I was ready to go full in to build my career,” she said.
Hutson earned a master’s degree in sports business management from the University of Central Florida. While at UCF, her program took a trip to the MLB headquarters and Hutson later attended the Baseball Winter Meetings, where she made connections that landed her an interview.
Hunter Greenfield is the associate director of development for University of Michigan athletics.
After graduating in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education with concentration in sport management, Greenfield worked at a sports complex in Grand Rapids. He gained experience in facilities management before joining U-M men’s basketball team as administrative assistant.
In that role, he did what he would advise current students to do: everything you can.
“I did a lot of networking once I got settled and soon began picking up extra duties,” Greenfield said. “I maintained a role as a liaison for fan and alumni inquiries, offered assistance on our summer camp circuit and began to pick up some graphic design skills in order to diversify my experiences.”
After two years with Michigan basketball, Greenfield applied and was later hired for an entry-level role in the athletic development department, which he said was similar to his experiences as a student worker in the marketing department for Laker Athletics.
“That experience provided me with a great foundation to begin a career in athletic fundraising at Michigan,” he said. “I had already learned how to function as an externally facing representative of the department, and acquired a few tools necessary for building relationships with individuals outside of my organization.”
Greenfield now manages a portfolio of major gift donors to athletics, tasked with soliciting gifts of $100,000 or more in support of the department.
Keeping those relationships was crucial during the pandemic when safety precautions canceled collegiate sports and, later, limited fans. “It was a huge challenge for our office, we were straddling a line between empathizing with people, yet the need for fundraising was there,” he said.