Program Spotlight: Intercollegiate and Professional Sports Management

Image of three students with Vegas Golden Knights gear

David Laboy, Cristina Correa, and Stephen Johnson

Nov. 17, 2021


Las Vegas is becoming the world's leading sports and entertainment city.

No, I don't think you got it the first time.

LAS VEGAS is becoming the WORLD'S leading city for SPORTS and entertainment. 

Sports professionals around the world are recognizing it, and UNLV is at the forefront. The College of Education is preparing the next generation of sports leaders with the Intercollegiate and Professional Sport Management, which offers an undergraduate certificate in sport leadership and management as well as an M.Ed. program in intercollegiate and professional sport management. Spearheaded by Dr. Nancy Lough and her graduate assistant Michelle Coyner, this innovative program distinguishes itself by its topical diversity. The program partners with organizations like the Raiders, Golden Knights, Aces, NASCAR and more, tapping into Las Vegas' unique access to an assorted sports market. The impact of this unprecedented access has sparked the interest of many students, like Stephen Johnson, who earned his undergraduate certificate in Spring 2021 and is slated to complete his undergraduate degree in Spring 2023. 

Stephen's story started with a handshake. When he was six, he got the opportunity of a lifetime -- an invitation to attend a Cincinnati Bengals practice. His uncle may have been a coach for the team at the time, but meeting the players, up close and personal, now THAT was cool. "I went to go shake Carson Palmer's hand and it engulfed mine...just huge! I obviously can't forget that because there was just so much awe in that moment. I knew I wanted to be around that for the rest of my life." Stephen has chased that high ever since. With building a career in the sports industry as a goal, it was a no-brainer for him to enroll in the IPSM certificate program, which would complement his bachelor’s degree in international business and marketing from UNLV’s Lee Business School. 

The IPSM program does more than prepare graduates for leadership and management-level careers, it helps get their feet in the door. Dr. Lough knows the power of building networks and is committed to facilitating an environment where students are constantly being introduced to industry leaders in the area. As a result, Stephen doesn't have to wait for his graduation, slated for Spring 2023, to dive into the industry. He's already in the middle of the action putting his marketing and sports knowledge to the test with the Vegas Golden Knights, where he works as a marketing department gameday staffer. He credits this opportunity to Michelle Coyner, who is a champion for each and every one of her students. "She has been such an awesome mentor and I can never thank her enough. She just gave me so many opportunities and connections," including an internship with the Vegas Ballers, a minor league basketball team in their first season in The Basketball League. 

Stephen highlights the uniqueness of the program. Those seeking a master's can choose between the intercollegiate athletics or professional sports tracks, while certificate students are introduced to the industry as a whole. He appreciates that his experience included not only watching the city and its teams develop from the ground up but being immersed and involved in that growth. Without hesitation, Stephen encourages students interested in sports, curious about the industry, or just wanting to experience Vegas in a new way to simply apply and give the IPSM program a try. His story is just one of the many IPSM students who have seen tremendous benefits and accomplished great things. "I want to ensure that fans have a good experience at T-Mobile Arena and the Golden Knights games because making sure that people have a good time and enjoy sports, that's the best part of it all."

Story by Kia Cummings