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Islanders University back for second year

Saturday, 06.4.2011 / 10:00 AM ET / News
By Brian Croce
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Islanders University back for second year
Classes may have ended in most colleges and universities across the country, but for a select 27 students, the work has only just begun.

June 1 marked the first day of Islanders University at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders summer internship program started its second year after a successful debut in 2010.

This summer, some interns will focus on specific fields like media, sponsorship, hockey operations, or customer service; others will rotate through each department for a few weeks at a time.

“I really want to work in the sports industry someday,” said Steven Unterburger, a senior at The College of New Jersey. “To have the opportunity work in an organization as prestigious as the Islanders is a great start.”

Unterburger has been a lifelong sports fan, a primary reason why he pursued a slot at Islanders University. He and the rest of the interns came to the Coliseum on Wednesday for their first day of work.

Last year, Islanders owner Charles Wang was determined to create an internship program that would be rivaled by no other professional sports organization. Interns at Islanders University will play a crucial role in the success of the organization in the coming weeks-pitching ideas, interacting with season ticket holders, attending community events and more.

Participants in the internship program come from all over the United States. From California, to Florida, to West Virginia, there is a wide array of students represented in the program.

Mike Rogers, a senior at Dickinson College, started his internship in the sponsorship department a few days earlier than the rest of his colleagues and is already enjoying the experience.

“It’s a great environment,” he said. “They (Islanders employees) tell you what they expect. They’re very informative and if you don’t understand something they will help explain it.”

Rakhee Kulkarni recently finished her studies at Brooklyn Law School, but doesn’t yet know if she wants to pursue a career in law. She has always liked sports and hopes to gain a better understanding of what happens behind the scenes in a professional sports organization.

“I’m curious about the business end of sports,” Kulkarni said. “I’m interested to see how sports teams function, how they get fans in the seats, how they maintain an interest from fans and how it can be profitable.”

The new recruits were welcomed to Islanders University with a breakfast and a panel discussion from some of the Islanders executive staff. Senior Vice President Michael Picker, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales Paul Lancey and General Manager Garth Snow addressed the room of interns. The three executives told the interns to find what they are passionate about and learn how to pursue it.

“I’ve always played sports,” Rogers, a member of the Dickinson football team said. “It’s a love and a passion of mine. Hopefully I can turn that passion into a job someday.”

After the breakfast and speeches, the interns were taken on a tour of Nassau Coliseum for an inside look of where and how things get done all around the arena.

Like many interns, Unterburger has had prior experience in a sports-related field. This past spring, he was a bat boy for the Atlanta Braves during spring training in Florida. Unterburger is a rotational intern and will begin his program in the sales department.

“The rotational internship will be a varied experience that I’m sure will help me in the future,” Unterburger said.

Kulkarni is also a rotational intern, and hopes to see what kinds of grassroots programs the Islanders hold and how they reach out to different minorities and women in the community. She has been an Islanders fan for many years and is looking forward to the coming weeks.

“This has been my team for years,” Kulkarni said. “This is my dream job.”

One member of last year’s Islanders University class now has a full-time position with the Islanders. Allison Chin currently works in the sponsorship department for the Islanders, utilizing many of the skills she picked up during her time as an intern.

“It made me more well-rounded,” Chin said of her Islanders internship. “I knew which department did what and it helped me see how everything is intertwined.”

Chin went from an intern position, to a part-time position, to a full-time position with the Islanders. Now, she has simple, yet effective advice for this year’s crop of Islanders interns.

“Never burn any bridges and always focus on building good relationships because you never know where they’re going to lead.”

As of Wednesday there are 27 current interns who hope to do just that.

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