Alumni Profile: Mary Sykora

Mary Sykora ‘12, is a Senior Operations Manager at Sports and Entertainment Travel where she directs new event design and development, executes tour commission programs, manages several University-related programs and maintains vendor relationships. Mary studied Sport Management in the College of Natural Resources.

What is a typical day like for you?

When I am in my office, I perform a variety of administrative and operational tasks including client and vendor communication, product development and procurement, event reconciliation and tour preparation. While on-site, I am executing all components of a tour – transportation, hotel accommodations, local sightseeing tours, game tickets, tailgates all while monitoring the guest’s experience and safety.

What do you enjoy most about your current position?

Providing the best experience for alumni and fans traveling to support their teams or to a bucket list sporting event.

What do you find most challenging about your current position?

Work-life-balance. As technology has advanced and we are always available via a cell phone, the expectation of answering emails or calls immediately has become more prevalent.

What is your best memory of CNR or NC State?

Through CNR, we had the opportunity to volunteer at a local elementary school’s field day. It was a great day of interaction and encouragement with the students.

What was your favorite CNR class?

Finance! After studying engineering for a few years, switching to courses involving math that I could see myself applying every day was very refreshing.

What did you enjoy most about being a CNR student?

The support from my professors and adviser, they were always available to lend advise and truly wanted their students to succeed.

Did you complete any hands-on experiences like internships, study abroad, co-ops or undergraduate research? If so, what did do you and how did it impact you?

I was very fortunate to intern at the United States Naval Academy Athletic Association. It gave me hands-on work experience, shaping the line of work I would pursue upon graduating. After working for NC State Athletics during undergrad, it was valuable to learn some of the inner-workings of a smaller Athletic Department and humbling to see the midshipmen’s commitment to the country and their time at the Academy.

Were you involved in any clubs, hobbies or on-campus activities? Any stories you would like to share about your experiences?

Rho Phi Lambda

Any advice for incoming CNR students?

Take advantage of the resources around you and gain volunteer and work experience during undergrad.

How do you feel CNR prepared you for your current career?

The variety of the curriculum touched upon many aspects you can encounter in a professional career. Great idea to require an internship for graduation.

Do you have any career accomplishments you are particularly proud of?

Traveling over 2,000 Ohio State Buckeye alumni and fans to the inaugural College Football Playoff and Championship game.

Have you held any other positions you would like for us to know about?

Event Planner at PrimeSport and Travel Coordinator at USA Baseball

How did you choose your major and what attracted you to the program at NC State?

I started out on the engineering track at NC State, studying biomedical engineering. I couldn’t suppress my love for sports, so began double majoring in Sport Management. As I began to take more of the CNR courses and interning for the Athletic Department, I knew my future would be in the sport management industry so I switched my major solely to Sport Management.

Is there any personal information you would like to share with students?

When I made the decision to switch majors to sport management, I started reaching out to all of the NC State Athletic departments, looking for volunteer opportunities. After reaching out to 20 or so, I finally heard back from the Athletic Ticket Office, they were looking for a student assistant. I eagerly headed in for my first day and was assigned the task of labeling envelopes for the football season tickets. Mind you, there were thousands of envelopes. For 8 hours, I sat and stuck labels and couldn’t help thinking – what have I gotten myself into? Moral of the story, hard work pays off. My work ethic was quickly recognized and I got the opportunity to gain valuable experience with other departments, including media relations and marketing.