Felicia Ganthier, ’15 SPS, has lived and breathed sports for as long as she can remember. A native of Baltimore, Md., and former student athlete, she likes to joke that she was “born with a crab mallet in one hand and a lacrosse stick in the other.” But after spending time on the field of play, as one of the first recruits to Howard University’s lacrosse program, she discovered a new career path in professional sports that led her to Columbia’s M.S. in Sports Management program—and eventually to the front offices of major sports organizations.
Now, as Director of Operations for Community Relations at WWE, Ganthier is drawing on her experience at Columbia, as both a student and an alum, to develop new strategies for connecting with sports fans in the midst of a global health crisis.
“My concentration at Columbia was in fundraising management, so a lot of what I studied is coming back up now,” she said. “How to build an annual plan, how to engage our partners to get funding and support that way.
It was an internship in sports information at Morgan State University, where she enrolled after transferring from Howard, that first gave Ganthier a sense of the broader career possibilities that sports offered. She went on to earn her B.S. in Sports Management from Towson University and landed a job as Sports Information Director at Long Island University, in Brooklyn. Before long, however, her interest in public relations work began to fade—that’s when she happened to see an ad in the paper for a new Sports Management program launching at Columbia.
Encouraged by a former boss, she reached out to Lucas Rubin, the program’s founding director, and after taking a requisite accounting course, she was admitted. Soon after, a former colleague who had become Columbia’s sports information director urged Ganthier to apply for an opening in the athletics department, where she went on to work in development roles while balancing schoolwork.
Leveraging my experience at Columbia has been and will continue to be crucial to what I do.— Felicia Ganthier, ’15 SPS, M.S. in Sports Management
Ganthier later took a new job in corporate and foundation relations at Columbia Business School, while continuing to pursue a hybrid degree in Sports Management and Fundraising. Unlike her previous workplace, the business school’s 9-to-5 pace left her missing the excitement of the sports world—a hole she was able to fill with a part-time job as a concierge at MetLife Stadium for major events, including Super Bowl XLVIII and Wrestlemania 29. In late 2014, she joined the Madison Square Garden Co., where she spent the next four and a half years working in community and alumni relations for the New York Rangers.
As much as Ganthier credits the program with giving her critical skills in business operations, she points to her experience as an alum as an ongoing source of education and growth. She remains engaged with alumni programming, where she endeavors to “wave the flag for SPS,” and returns often to speak with students about her professional experience.
“I loved my SPS experience,” she said. “I got to see the evolution of the Sports Management program and the school itself and how it’s grown so much. We started out small, but now we fill rooms!”
In her current role at WWE, Ganthier has been busy improvising creative alternatives to the fundraisers, fan events, and other in-person experiences she manages. The company is one of the largest wish granters for the Make a Wish Foundation, but the pandemic has put numerous bedside visits from WWE Superstars on hold. Ganthier has been using the time to educate herself on data collection and analysis to better understand the value of her department’s work. Happily, she’s able to tap her Columbia network for their knowledge and guidance
“I’m definitely nervous about what the immediate future holds,” she said. “But I know that sports and entertainment will be back. And leveraging my experience at Columbia has been and will continue to be crucial to what I do.”
Learn more about the M.S. in Sports Management program at the School of Professional Studies.