SPM prepares its first graduating class, many with jobs in hand

Students in the Sports Product Management class

The UO’s inaugural Sports Product Management class will graduate March 27, and almost half the students already have confirmed employment or offers pending.

It’s an exciting result for the Portland-based master’s degree program, which is a combination of traditional and experiential learning that follows the product development cycle of a new sports product more than 18 months. The first class enrolled 37 students in fall 2015, said Ellen Schmidt-Devlin, the program’s director and co-founder, and all 37 completed the program and will graduate together.

“From day one, our students work in a team with a sports product focus,” said Roger Best, the other co-founder of the program, which is based in the Lundquist College of Business.

“Each team has its normal class requirements and exams, but in addition present their team product projects to a review team made up of industry professionals and entrepreneurs at the end of each term,” he said. “After 18 months, each team has a finished product that is ready for consumer testing.”

It all adds up to a combination of theory and practice that lets students jump right into the sports product industry, Best said.

The inaugural class, 60 percent of whom already had industry experience when the program began, all secured paid internships last summer, working with manufacturers and suppliers in Asia and others at the headquarters of industry giants such as Columbia, adidas, Nike, Eddie Bauer, Mizuno, Danner, Patagonia, New Balance, UA, Saucony and On, Schmidt-Devlin said.

In addition, the six teams of students in the program brought their products to market earlier this month and had demonstrations at the Portland Women’s Expo, providing fit testing at a fitness gym and sponsoring a run with the Portland Running Company.

Companies where the graduates have accepted offers include Nike, adidas, Bolt Threads, Sorel, Deviation Snowboards, and Revant Optics. In addition, one group of students is starting their own brand, Achillo.

“The University of Oregon Sports Product Management program is a true partnership between industry and academia,” Schmidt-Devlin said. “Mentors, coaches, guest speakers and instructors from the industry have teamed up with excellent faculty from UO to offer this one-of-its kind, 18-month experience. Our graduates will soon be making a positive impact on this industry.”

By Laurie Notaro, University Communications