Two students participate in Finding Leaders Among Minorities Everywhere program
For the fifth consecutive year, Trinity University students have participated in the FLAME program hosted by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in Colorado Springs, Colo. FLAME, which stands for Finding Leaders Among Minorities Everywhere, was created to encourage both undergraduates and graduate students of color to pursue meaningful careers with the Olympic and Paralympic movements. Christian Tovar-Vargas ’15 and Julian Turner ’17 attended the 2015 program, held from May 27 to June 3.
While in Colorado Springs, Tovar-Vargas and Turner were able to connect with U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes, explored ways to become involved in the Olympic movements, and networked with 27 other students from across the United States. They heard from several Olympic medalists in addition to keynote lecturer Sheila C. Johnson, co-founder of BET and CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts. Tovar-Vargas and Turner also had some fun as they took in a Colorado Rapids game, a tour of DICK’s Sporting Goods Park, participated in a workshop by the Professional Golf Association, and hiked through the Garden of the Gods.
Jacob Tingle ’95, director of experiential learning, professor of the practice, and director of the sport management minor, said that Trinity’s relationship with the USOC largely began through Terris Tiller ’00, resident athlete dorm supervisor and multi-media coordinator at the USOC.
As Tingle developed the sport management minor, Tiller would help Tingle brainstorm and offered thoughts on the curriculum. At the 2015 program, Tiller organized a Trinity lunch with Tovar-Vargas, Turner, and alumni Leslie Green ’14 and Brianna Tammaro ’13, who both currently work at the USOC.
Tammaro was one of the first Trinity students to participate in FLAME and eagerly shared her experiences with other students back in San Antonio, something Tingle said helped spread greater awareness about FLAME. She is now the Paralympic Communications Coordinator at the USOC. Prior to the 2015 program, Tammaro reached out to Tovar-Vargas and Turner to congratulate them and offer some preparation pointers.
Before leaving to Colorado, Tovar-Vargas said he was most excited to meet with top-level sports executives and to witness sporting demonstrations by Olympic and Paralympic athletes. After the FLAME program, he will participate in the NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana, before heading off to graduate school at the University of San Francisco. There he will begin his studies in sports management.
“FLAME is very sports management-based and it’s trying to do two things,” Tovar-Vargas said: “To get you to network and build professional development, and to hit home a message of diversity and inclusion, getting more minority students in sports organizations.”
Tingle said that the FLAME program has helped broaden the scope of his sport management class, which now encompasses an entire week discussing the Olympics and international sport due in part to FLAME. Tingle added that, for many students, their first exposure to the breadth of the Olympic movement is because of the sport management curriculum.
Students are able to gain a greater perspective into this industry segment beyond the Olympic Games every two years.
“Everyone that goes through the program is exposed to what that industry segment is like and what the difficulties and benefits of operating in that industry can be,” Tingle said. “The Olympics impact every one of us, whether we care about sports or not.”
Tingle said that Trinity’s success within the FLAME program is a testament to a Trinity student’s ability to know not just skills, but how to think, reason, and continuously learn.
“The USOC recognizes that Trinity students are prepared to make decisions in a real-world environment,” Tingle said. “They are prepared to engage with real-world problems, think on their feet and make quick decisions.”
Kristell Muñiz ’15 participated in the FLAME program during the summer of 2013. She says the best part of FLAME was seeing all sides of the Olympic movement and how people from varied backgrounds became involved in the sports industry.
Muñiz, who is now a SAP consultant with Capgemini, says she learned about the human resources side of the Olympics at FLAME, something she now uses at Capgemini dealing with human capital management.
And although the program is only eight days, Muñiz said that Tovar-Vargas and Turner will have made lasting friendships with the other FLAME participants.
“Two years later we still call and text each other,” Muñiz said. “We still wish each other ‘happy birthday’ or congratulations on graduation. In that short time, you become very close to your class of FLAME alums.”
Carlos Anchondo is a writer and editor for marketing communications and a 2014 Trinity graduate. He can be found on Twitter at @cjanchondo or at canchond [at] trinity.edu.