The sports and entertainment industries may not always be the glamorous life, but the Grand Hall of the University of Georgia’s Tate Center felt a lot brighter when Universal Music Group, Turner Broadcasting, Recording Academy, NHL, QVC, and the Atlanta Hawks convened March 4 to talk shop with students.
The extra wattage came courtesy of the Professional Entertainment and Sports Association (PESA) at Terry’s third-annual PESA Summit. The summit is an array of panels and workshops exploring business trends and issues within the television, film, fashion, music, and sports industries.
With a roster of speakers that includes keynote addresses from Hawks president Bob Williams (ABJ ’75) and Turner Broadcasting COO Coleman Breland (MA ’83), it is the growth of the PESA summit in just three short years that is turning heads.
“The organization has grown exponentially,” said current PESA president Michael Asmelash (BBA ’13), who estimates the inaugural 2011 summit had maybe 30 people in attendance—including the industry professionals. “The 2012 summit had close to 300 attending.”
Asmelash, who has earned summer internships with Turner and Viacom/MTV, said PESA has become a defining part of his college career. The Terry management student with a focus in entrepreneurship began his tenure with this student organization on the rise as the executive assistant for last year’s president and PESA founder, Kamilah Gray (BBA ’12).
“I knew I wanted to keep the momentum going,” Asmelash said, explaining that he realized entertainment was his calling after hearing CNN’s executive vice president Scot Safon talk about finding one’s passion. “I knew PESA would be the medium that would give me fulfillment.”
No stranger to leadership, Asmelash worked with PESA’s student executive team to build its network and support system. The alum of Tucker High in Atlanta helped locate 10 new sponsors and close to $7,000 in funding—drawing upon skills and experiences that earned him the first FedEx Global Access Award in 2009’s Junior Achievement Company of the Year Competition and a grant offer from Fedex in the process.
Now with a roster of entertainment luminaries that includes Cox Communications, the Hawks, and even the Recording Academy—the organization responsible for the Grammy Awards—PESA is providing students the opportunity to build networks with the best and brightest in entertainment.
Asmelash said the panelists and speakers—many of them UGA alums and industry professionals working in New York and Los Angeles—enjoy returning to Athens to share their experiences.
“The alumni get to donate their time and share how they got where they are, inspire students to take the same path or even learn from their mistakes. They even help students get internships,” said Asmelash, who recounted when Jennifer McMillan (AB ’02), the Senior HR Director at Ralph Lauren Tokyo, flew in from New York last year and did exactly that. “She’s responsible for recruiting senior level executives, but she saw something in one of the students and directed her to Ralph Lauren’s internship program. That student earned a summer internship.”
Asmelash believes the substantial growth of PESA in just three years comes from these networks and listening to the students.
“The reason is that PESA is unlike any other conference event held at the Terry College and the University of Georgia is that it is specifically built on the speakers, and recruiters from industries that they want to interact with,” he said.