By: Adam White, @FOSAdam
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Morris E. White, Assistant Athletics Director of Marketing and Game Experience at Northern Illinois University. Described by colleagues as someone with “terrific energy and a visionary focus” as well as “one of the best in marketing, promotions and sales,” Morris is the model of a true professional. An alumnus of Northwest Missouri State University, Morris comes armed with an electric smile, an infectious personality and a visionary mind. While excelling at every position he has been at, he has become one of the brightest young minds in the sports industry today. He was gracious enough to offer up his time and insight into the world of collegiate athletics, why an energetic attitude is so instrumental to success and why you have to enjoy every moment in this industry.
In less than 10 years, you have gone from an Athletic Marketing and Promotions intern at Northwest Missouri State, to the Assistant AD of Marketing and Game Experience at NIU. What has that journey been like for you?
The journey has been amazing for me not only professionally, but personally as well. The opportunity to work at NIU has been exemplary and I’m looking forward to learning, cultivating and building even greater things here. I’ve learned a lot the over the past ten years in the industry. The most important aspect to my growth has been the development of my relationships with of others.
You have worked in collegiate athletics your entire career. What makes this part of the industry so great and what makes you stay year after year?
One of the things that makes this industry great is the people and the unique, genuine relationships that are formed. Everyone is so willing to help and, when asked, will more likely than not share their best practices with one another.
I also enjoy the fact that my office changes daily. One day I’ll be at my desk on the computer and the next I may be at a baseball game enjoying the weather. It’s always nice coming into work everyday and knowing no two days will be the same. It’s one of the things I enjoy the most. It’s truly exciting.
There is always something new to learn every day. Not only do we want to learn so that we can enhance ourselves, but so we can enhance the experience of our donors, fans and student athletes.
It’s amazing how much of that learning can be done over social media. I can honestly say that through social media, I’ve been able to form relationships that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to have. And despite having never met some folks in person, I considered them industry friends.
When approaching your work and career, most people tell students that they have to stand out by doing something different. How did you stand out and still continue to do so? What would be your tips for students?
When I was starting out as an intern I made an effort to learn not only everything about the marketing department, but the athletics industry in general. I never turned down any task or job. I knew having a working knowledge of everything going on would be invaluable.
I would advise other colleagues and students to try and absorb as much information as possible. You also need to find your passion and your niche and let that carry you through.
From everything I have read, you’re very energetic and positive. What drives you to be that way? How has that affected everything else you do?
I am naturally energetic. I’ve never had coffee and I don’t need a lot of caffeine. What drives that energy and that positive attitude is an appreciation for life. There is nothing to complain about if you are blessed to wake up and enjoy life everyday. I love having a positive attitude because it is contagious. If you did nothing else in your day but smile at someone, I guarantee they are going to smile back. I try to appreciate what I have. Even though everything may not go our way, you can control your attitude which ultimately affects others around you.
Finish this for me… “The importance of mentors is…”
Helping your mentees advance by reaching back and pulling others up. As you progress in your career and in life, it is important to remember those who have helped you get there, along with those who are looking up to you or looking for guidance.
One of my mentors is Dr. Bob Boerigter who is now the Commissioner of the MIAA. While I was at Northwest Missouri State, he was my Athletics Director and gave me my first shot in the industry. He hired me on April 1. I am so grateful for what he did, that every April 1st for the past 10 years I have called him to let him know how much that meant to me. He is one of a few mentors of mine but they have all been truly great to me both personally and professionally!
Sports are known for their long hours and hard work. What are some things you would tell students to prepare for before their first position?
I would tell them to prepare for change and be flexible. No two days are the same so you have to be able to adapt. You have to prepare for those long hours. You may have a day on your schedule where you will have three events in one day. I would also tell them to be patient. As you move up the career ladder, don’t worry about your next job. Be great where you are and opportunities will find you. As the old saying goes ‘good things come to those who wait.
Additionally, you have to be willing to continually learn. Especially with technology’s continuous advancements, everything changes so fast.
Enjoy the ride. There will be bumps and rough transitions, but you have to enjoy it. It’s a lifestyle. You have to embrace long hours, working on weekends, late nights and everything else that comes with it. If you enjoy what you do, you will never work a day in your life. It takes a special type of person to do what we do.
We would like to thank Morris for his time and insight and we wish him the best of luck in all his future endeavors!