Patriot Games

Monday, November 16, 2015

Of the 13 Football Championship Subdivision conferences in the NCAA, four have executive directors who are women, and one of those is an RMU alum. Jennifer Heppel M'93 became executive director of the Patriot League in August. The Division I athletic conference consists of 10 core schools in the Northeast: Army, Navy, American, Boston University, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, and Loyola Maryland.

Heppel, who earned her M.B.A. in sport management at RMU, worked as associate commissioner for the Big Ten Conference before her latest leap up the ranks. As a Division I executive director, Heppel is essentially the CEO of the conference. Her job is to create, interpret, and enforce polices of the Patriot League, while at the same time carrying out the strategic plan for the conference.

Choosing Robert Morris over institutions such as Ohio University or UMass Amherst was an intelligent decision, she says, because it set her apart from other candidates in her field. "I chose Robert Morris University because of the opportunity to also earn an M.B.A It was unique at the time in that regard, because the other programs were just master's programs."

As an undergraduate student at Wesleyan University, Heppel played women's ice hockey. Heppel's athletic career was an extremely significant part of her life, and she associates it with success in her professional career. She compares the moments of stepping onto the ice for the first time with walking into a business meeting full of people you have never met. "It was confidence. You go into so many situations in life that are unnerving, where you really have to test yourself and trust your instincts." Heppel says.

Heppel says her favorite aspect of her job in collegiate athletics is working with people who love what they do for a living. Her advice for sport management graduates starting their careers is to be patient and persistent: "Getting the first job is the most difficult, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But once you get that first job, take advantage of it."

Written by Xavier Hickman

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