Guest Scott Hanson speaks at a “Pizza with the Pros” event. These events are held every Monday to give students the opportunity to speak to professionals in the sports industry. - Photo / Neil Hartman

After getting sent home at the end of March, many Rowan students were faced with uncertainty about the future and when they would get to see each other in person again. For students who take part in “Pizza with the Pros,” it was especially concerning, considering the fact that they would no longer be able to meet sports industry experts in person. 

“Pizza with the Pros” is a networking opportunity for Rowan students where they are given the chance to speak with sports industry experts that visit campus weekly, discuss their career paths and get their questions answered. Some notable professionals from last year include Chris Shearn, a studio host for YES Network, and Tom McCarthy, who is a broadcaster for the Phillies, CBS Sports and Westwood One Radio. 

Thanks to Neil Hartman, the director for the Center for Sports Communication and Social Impact at Rowan University, “Pizza with the Pros” has been able to continue this semester. Although the circumstances are not ideal, Hartman understands how important it is for his students to meet these professionals. 

“I try to reach all different aspects of the industry for our students,” Hartman said.

Whether a student is interested in marketing, public relations, broadcasting or journalism, Hartman stresses the importance of these events because they provide real life experiences and may draw out interests from the students that could lead to possible internship opportunities. 

Although the set up is different from previous years with no in-person meeting or pizza, Hartman has set up the guests to meet with students and faculty via WebEx. The environment has completely changed, but this has not discouraged student engagement one bit. 

“I think that students have been great, we have had very good participation and a lot of questions,” Hartman said. “We fill up the entire hour with questions from students, so I feel like they are getting a lot out of it.”

This week, Scott Hanson, who hosts NFL Redzone, was able to participate in this session. The WebEx video call had just under 70 participants who filled the chat with numerous questions that allowed Hanson to speak for over an hour. 

Students asked him questions about internships, what it’s like to work for the NFL and even how COVID-19 has impacted his daily routine. Hanson answered these questions with ease, but warned students that the industry is very competitive and that they will need to make sacrifices. 

Typically, Hanson would not be able to meet with students because he lives in Los Angeles, and it would be impossible to leave during football season.

“However, because of the pandemic, I have been able to reach out to friends that would not have ordinarily been able to attend a session on campus,” Hartman said.

Another guest who would normally not be able to come to Rowan University is Rob King. He was the first guest for “Pizza with the Pros” this year and is the senior vice president and editor-at-large for ESPN content. It would have been impossible for him to come and speak with students in-person on a Monday night because he lives in Connecticut. 

Despite the adversities and challenges that the pandemic has brought to colleges, Rowan continues to remain positive and provide opportunities for their students. Thanks to staff members such as Hartman, students can still remain connected and involved whether they are staying on campus or doing their online education from home. 

“Pizza with the Pros” will continue throughout the rest of the semester.

“We’re going to have 12 straight weeks of ‘Pizza With the Pros,’ every Monday night at 6 o’clock,” Hartman said.

This includes next week’s guest Nathan Maciborski who is the executive editor of publications for the New York Yankees.  

Not even a pandemic will stop Rowan students from expanding their knowledge and passion for the sports media industry. Those interested in attending a “Pizza with the Pros” event can register by emailing sportscam@rowan.edu.

For comments/questions about this story, email sports@thewhitonline.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline.

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