Dynamic Duo Descends upon San Diego

After a long and productive week back from their summer networking break, SMBA ’17 was thrilled to welcome the second and third alumni in just five days to share their experiences with the class.

After a full week of sessions with Shana Gritsavage Ferguson (SMBA ’07), Mike Warkentin (SMBA ‘13) made the trip all the way from Edmonton to speak to the cohort. He spent the better part of an hour and a half telling the class about his life in the great white north and explained his duties as Interim Director of Events for Northlands- one of Canada’s biggest and oldest sports entertainment companies.  Mike laid out some of the biggest challenges that Northlands is facing in Edmonton, specifically regarding Rexall Place, their main venue.

Their long-term tenants, the Edmonton Oilers (42 years) and Edmonton Oil Kings (10 years) are transitioning to another venue, leaving a void that Northlands is looking to fill in order to keep the economy stimulated in the area. Mike discussed Northland’s plan, Vision 2020, to remodel Rexall Place and turn it into an all-encompassing venue, with 6 sheets of ice and an outdoor concert area that could accommodate up to 100,000 people. The changes to the current venue would also see the remodel of an arena to accommodate 5,000 people indoors, giving the site quite a bit of versatility and the chance to host different types of events throughout the year.

SMBA ‘17 had an incredible time asking questions about Mike’s drive and career path. After all, it’s not every day that a graduate just three years removed from the classroom has the opportunity to run a professional sports and major concert venue and lead an initiative the way he has with Northlands. The class was also impressed with the way Mike spoke of the economic impact that Northlands has on the community, and it is easy to see how deeply he cares about this new plan. We wish him all the luck in the upcoming city meetings that could determine if the Vision 2020 plan becomes a reality or not.


The second of our stellar guest speakers was Jack Tipton (SMBA ‘06). Jack also made the long trip to San Diego from Pittsburgh in to speak to the class about sponsorship. He told the class about his peculiar tale of how failure has led him to achieve professional success. While Jack is currently serving as Director, Partnership Marketing for the Pittsburgh Penguins, his road serves as a reminder that we should never be discouraged by failure, because each one leads to opportunity. His journey has taken him from the MLB Commissioner’s Office to College Partnerships to Retail Software Sales then finally to the NHL. Jack stressed the importance of researching prospective clients, interviewers or people you get in contact with in order to leave a lasting impression. He reiterated that since the sports world is extremely small, and everyone knows everyone, you never know who might help you in the future. He believes that working hard for what you want, impressing people along the way, and building lasting relationships with the people you meet will get you to your dream job. As a final parting gift, Jack gave the cohort the opportunity to provide ideas for an upcoming promotion that is sure to excite Pennsylvania. Stay tuned for updates on this exciting project!


“It was great to see both Mike and Jack together because they’ve known each other for so long that they developed an incredible rapport and it really shows when they talk about each other. We can all use that as an example of how to leverage the alumni network and build strong and meaningful relationships”. – Daniel Margolin (SMBA ’17)


“I enjoyed hearing how broad their careers have been. Both alumni have worked in different facets of the sports industry and have used previous jobs or job duties leverage their next position or responsibility.” -Amy Wesson (SMBA ’17)



“I am consistently amazed at the level of expertise each of our alums has when it comes to not only their particular job, but the industry they are in as well. I appreciated Mike and Jack’s no nonsense advice and honest opinions of what life is like when you work in the sports industry.” -Mandy Chatigny (SMBA ’17)


“It was great to have Mike speak about a topic that is so current and relevant as sports venues are always changing as sports evolve. Just as Jack discussed new opportunities for sponsorship as the Penguins come to their 50-year anniversary after a Stanley Cup win.” -Kristina Wedseltoft (SMBA ’17)


Written by Daniel Margolin, Amy Wesson, Mandy Chatigny and Kristina Wedseltoft.