When you’re really good at something, it can be hard to leave it behind. Yet, challenging ourselves is what allows us to achieve goals we never even imagined. Erin Harville, MBA '22, now a brand marketing manager for the Portland Trail Blazers, is familiar with this concept.
Before joining the Oregon MBA program, the Atlanta, Georgia native was comfortable in her role as a creative services assistant for the University of Kentucky athletics department. Despite managing a team to execute content for eight varsity sports, she wanted a bigger role in the ideation and planning stages of the creative process.
“I realized I needed to put myself in a situation where I could do everything I was capable of doing, and not just rely on one strong skill,” Harville said.
Once she landed at the Lundquist College of Business to begin her MBA, Harville was able to transfer her experience to University of Oregon Athletics, where she joined the women's basketball marketing team as both a creative services assistant and graduate assistant. In these roles, she assisted with content strategy for the University of Oregon Athletics brand during a period of disconnect between players and fans due to the pandemic.
“I pulled players into the conversation to ask what they wanted to do during the season, and worked with them to design the pre-game shooting shirts for the social awareness game versus the University of Connecticut on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day," she said. "It was a good start learning how to use players’ voices to drive campaigns through other departments.”
Much of what Harville learned—from both these experiences and the classroom—helps her succeed with the Trail Blazers. As the team's brand marketing manager, she focuses on fan development, including digital marketing assets, in-game activations, promotions, email campaigns, broadcast, press, and radio. This involves developing programs—such as the Rip City Kids Club and Trail Blazers Fan Fest—to updating creative assets like the team’s Pride logo.
Harville feels that having both the creative freedom to influence the brand’s look and feel and the ability to see her projects come to life has been refreshing.
“Everything we do is focused on impact, and so when I get the chance to also interact with the community and fans, I feel what we’re doing is authentic.”
Reflecting on her time as an Oregon MBA student, Harville feels that the work she did—both inside and outside the classroom—not only validated but improved her skillset. Yet her journey was by no means easy, and she’s grateful for the help she received along the way. She credits her mentor Jonathan McLean, who works in Nike’s global women’s lifestyle marketing department, her professors, her academic advisors, and her peers with encouraging her to be confident and to explore all the different opportunities out there.
“I was ready to settle for something, but the college's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center taught me to know my worth and make sure the role I step into matches who I am as a person. Purpose should match purpose, and I should be able to be the cool, swaggy, young professional that I am without having to shy away from my identity,” she said.
On the Trail Blazers team, Harville not only feels like she can truly be herself, but also feels she has already achieved her dream job. After graduating, she realized her dreams were too small to begin with—thanks to her experience in the Oregon MBA, she now has the knowledge and skills to contribute to any situation.
“I was able to overcome so many moments of doubt and take a step back in order to take another step forward, which has helped me in my current job.”
As a result, she’s begun developing the next phase of her career goals, intending to dream bigger and be better than ever before.
As her career takes off, Harville notices the continued value from her connections made via the Oregon MBA and Warsaw Center. The breadth of classes and the variety of people with different perspectives in her cohort have taught her an important lesson: rely on others.
“You can be an expert in your area, but coming through a cohort you realize other people’s strengths. You build relationships where everyone leans on each other because of their differing strengths,” she said.
It’s an emotional experience to look back at the hardships she’s been through and acknowledge everything she’s been able to accomplish so far.
“My journey was not easy. I wasn’t top of my class, but I did the things that mattered to me. I got the experience I wanted out of the program and the support from people around me. I can say that the environment in the Oregon MBA and the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center is real, genuine, and unique.”
—Makenzie Fancher, MBA Class of 2023