This April, Portland Business Journal will recognize Ellen Schmidt-Devlin, PhD, as one of this year’s Women of Influence. The honor is the latest recognition for a woman whose career has been defined by breaking professional barriers and empowering others around her to exceed their own expectations.
In her current role as executive director of the Lundquist College’s Portland programs, Schmidt-Devlin leads the Oregon Executive MBA and UO Sports Product Management programs, challenging both to raise the bar continually as they deliver world-class experiences to their students and alumni.
Most recently, Schmidt-Devlin became the driving force behind the Portland programs’ new Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging forum, which was established in May 2020. Comprising students, alumni, faculty, staff, and professionals from around the region, the group aims to grow the number of diverse students in both programs, ensure an inclusive experience for all students, and provide a meeting ground for the region’s leading brands and organizations to develop best practices for growing diversity and inclusion in the business world.
Schmidt-Devlin's connection to the University of Oregon is longstanding. A standout runner in high school, Schmidt-Devlin was recruited to join the University of Oregon's women's track and field team, where she worked to grow the team's standing by actively recruiting other star runners.
In 1980 Schmidt-Devlin began a career at Nike, where she was mentored by legendary track coach Bill Bowerman. During her 27 years with the company, Schmidt-Devlin ran divisions in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Thailand, as well as in the United States, and she was often the first woman named to these leadership positions.
After her time at Nike, Schmidt-Devlin turned her attention to new challenges, earning her MBA from the Oregon Executive MBA and producing the film “We Grew Wings”—a documentary on the history and achievements of the UO’s women’s track and field team that premiered at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials for track and field in Eugene.
Schmidt-Devlin followed these accomplishments by teaming with Professor Emeritus Roger Best to begin working on an idea that would grow into UO Sports Product Management.
“When I taught a course on the sports product industry for MBA students in Eugene, I realized that there was a hunger for this kind of knowledge—and that no program currently existed to teach young people about the entire sports product creation business process—from the ideation and development stages all the way to manufacturing and merchandising,” said Schmidt-Devlin.
In 2015, Schmidt-Devlin welcomed 39 students from around the world to the inaugural class of the University of Oregon’s master’s degree program in sports product management. In 2019, UO Sports Product Management launched an online version of its master’s degree program, blending distance learning with onsite experiences in Portland and abroad. The online program provides working professionals the opportunity to earn their degrees while continuing to work full time. To date, more than 230 students have graduated from the two programs.
Along with empowering its graduates to begin building careers in the fields of their dreams, UO Sports Product Management has created ongoing pipeline of talent for the sports product industry, one of the key contributors to the region’s economy.
Although many people would be busy enough simply launching two first-of-their kind degree programs, Schmidt-Devlin's characteristic drive led her to add one more challenge: pursuing her PhD in building sustainable systems from Case Western Reserve University, which she earned in 2020. This latest accomplishment means that Schmidt-Devlin will have still more ways to continue serving the University of Oregon, athletes, students, and the industry she loves.
Beginning Monday, April 5, 2021, Portland Business Journal will feature a video roundtable discussion between Schmidt-Devlin and four other Women of Influence honorees. Schmidt-Devlin and 24 other leaders will be honored during a virtual ceremony on Friday, April 9.
—Kit Alderdice, Lundquist College Communications