Jalen C. Rowe: sport management major, business minor
Where are you from? And why did you decide to come to KU?
I am from Depew, Oklahoma which is a small town (population 500-ish people) located in northeast Oklahoma. There are multiple factors that came into play, when choosing where I decided to continue my education. The first being the cliché answer that I wanted to get far away from my past environment (home), but not too far away. The place I grew up in provided a lot of barriers for me to be successful in the future in the way that I want to be, and slowly over my time here [at KU] I’ve come to realize that you have to make hard decisions if you want to accomplish your future goals and leaving home was one of those big decisions. In addition, the most straight forward answer was that I was accepted early into the School of Architecture, Design, and Planning [at the time] 5 months before I heard back from Gates. So, I had already seen the campus and met the staff who were amazing in accommodating me as a first-generation student who wasn’t familiar with college environments. That was what sealed the deal in choosing KU as the institution to attain my education, the staff and faculty who go above and beyond to help you to get a degree and succeed in whatever major you choose. A plus that came along with education was of course the basketball program, as a big part of the Native American environment in Oklahoma revolves around sports and I too grew up in a sport encouraging/engaging family. Most of the schools I had on my application list were basketball powerhouses such as KU, Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky. KU, being the shortest distance away from home, happened to be one of my top choices and I’m proud to say that I’ve become a Jayhawk.
Why did you choose your major(s)? Was there a moment when you decided this is what you wanted to study? What was that journey like?
My journey to finding my major has been a long one, but the process has been worth it. As mentioned, I was originally accepted into the School of Architecture. I was in the program for a year and it honestly wasn’t bad, I made good grades and was pretty successful in the atmosphere in terms of connecting to staff and professors. However, the lifestyle that came with the major wasn’t the one I picture for myself in ten or twenty years. Plus, I felt like as a designer a lot of my creativity was restricted which comes along with the career, until you prove yourself in the field your artistic abilities are subdued. The main reason I chose to leave architecture at the time though had to do with financial stability and creating the life I wanted my family to experience. I grew up in a low socioeconomic background and money became a big motivator for me after my freshman year. So, sophomore year I focused on pursuing a career in exercise science and an interest in Pre-Med, i.e. I wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon. In essence, it was the worst academic year for me personally, I did not enjoy my time in this major as I realized that sciences just weren’t for me. I thought I loved sciences in high school, but I’ve come to realize that it’s not something I want to be surrounded by 24/7. The financial compensation that came with the title in the future was what I focused on and it would allow my family to thrive in the future; but overall, I would’ve been miserable in the field and wouldn’t have been successful. So, over that year and summer I had time to reflect on what I wanted to do and what career I could do my best in that was actually interesting to me, that would allow me to thrive. I mentioned earlier that sports played big part in my community and family, but even during my time in other majors I still had an overwhelming interest in sports, specifically basketball. The answer was in front of me the whole time, in terms of what I was truly passionate about which is the game, environment, and lifestyle that came along with basketball. I just always thought of it as hobby that I was very interested in. I didn’t think of turning it into a career, at least one that I could be successful in. In other words, instead of focusing on how my future would turn out or how big my check would be, to support other people, I started to focus on myself and what made me happy. So, now here I am a newly enrolled student in the School of Education sport management program! Despite time I could’ve spent focusing on sport management, I don’t regret trying out my past majors as I still utilize skills and abilities that I’ve picked up in architecture and exercise science.
What can you tell us about the Gates Millennium Scholars Program? What does being a Gates Millennium Scholar mean to you?
It truly is a blessing, I am always grateful that I’ve received this scholarship that allows me to stay focused on academics. The main purpose of the scholarship is the “scholarship” aspect of it so paying for majority of tuition. It provides a cushion for members of the program, as I mentioned, to focus more on school and less on paying for tuition. However, they still hold you accountable you can’t just have the scholarship and do terrible in academia. They make sure you’re doing well in classes and doing well on campus, leadership wise. They also understand that for many of the scholars it’s a big shift to a new environment, often one that is often done alone, and along with that shift comes challenges and that can affect scholars in different ways. So, if you have setbacks you just have to communicate with them and let them know that you’re still serious about pursuing education. From there, they do their best to work with you to get back to being academically successful. The process for becoming a Gates Scholar for me was a hard one. In short, I’ve had a hard life compared to a lot of people and believe that my advisor stated it best when she said, “It’s a sob story, and yes some people use sob stories to get scholarships, but yours is real.” Some people like to judge people with big scholarships based on the fact that they get their tuition paid for, but the truth is for students like me we had to struggle to get to where we are. I grew up with barriers and faced hardship in my background and through that I’ve learned how to fight and persevere through hard times, while holding leadership roles, being active and involved in my community, and staying an academically inclined student. While you hold the Gates Millennium scholarship or something similar people like to judge the financial façade, but the journey was a tough one and one only few people were capable of accomplishing. Gates in that regard also does a great job in assuring us [as members of the program] that we’ve truly earned every benefit we get from the program. They help us remember how we got here, as the last class of Gates Millennium Scholars. When we applied to the program, we had to share the stories of our struggles with the application committees, but also let them know that we were being accomplished individuals and students respectively. There was the initial application that consisted of general information, references, and 8 or more essays that focused on different aspects of us as accomplished individuals and students. Then around 2 months later they let us know if we made it to the second round of applications, and finally a month or so after that we received news of if we made it into the program or not. Each stage for me induced more anxiety than the next but overall the experience was overwhelming and amazing. The journey to where I am at currently has been incredible and a privilege, knowing that I get to pursue a career in a field that I love. While yes, I had to face hardship to get to where I am, it’s an amazing feeling knowing that it all has paid off. It’s an honor that I get to be a part of a prestigious program, but more importantly part of the family that is the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program.
Are you involved in any research projects? If so, what is the focus of the research?
No, as mentioned science and research is not for me, personally. While I do encourage it, people need the information for us to survive and advance as a society in every career field, I do my best to not deal with research. I know eventually I will, in some aspect, conduct research on the job, but it won’t be to the extent that someone in the medical field would.
What is the most exciting part of your major and minor? What do you think is most valuable about your experiences in these programs?
As a reminder I am majoring in sport management and minoring in business. For me the most valuable part of KU’s program specifically is that KU is very valuable when it comes to being connected to big sports programs such as the Chiefs, Sporting KC, or the Royals. So, there’s already so much opportunity presented just in an area thirty minutes away. As a basketball fan looking to breakout into the basketball market though, being a part of the basketball powerhouse that is KU is a huge advantage, privilege, and honor for me personally. In addition, I have the opportunity to be connected to Adidas through our partnership as well as to the rest of the sports within athletics. In other words, our program is a huge outlet that can present opportunities to connect you to where you want to go and that is what I find most exciting. I haven’t gotten started in my business classes yet, but I have no doubt that they’ll be just as exciting as the sport management courses I’ve participated in. I find that I enjoy the courses that I feel will benefit me and pertain the most to my future career. In essence, since I need to know the financial side of sport programs business courses are a top priority for me.
Give a shout-out to a professor, mentor, advisor, or someone at KU who has helped you?
I can’t have just one, I think what most students find out is that it takes a team of people to elevate you as student in a university setting. My team consists of a lot of mentors and advisors at the Office of Multicultural Affairs, they’re all amazing and not afraid to help you tackle your problems. More specifically for me Mauricio Gomez Montoya has been a great advisor and friend in helping me grow here at KU, he’s been there from the beginning and was one of the first people to reach out to me as a freshman. Melissa Peterson is the First Nations Student Association Advisor, but she’s always been there for me as support outside of First Nations. Michele Casavant is the director and advisor of the Multicultural Scholars Program for the School of Education, and I always refer to her as our [MSP Education Students] second mom here at KU. She does a great job keeping us accountable and making sure we are doing great academically, physically, and mentally. If we have a problem, she’ll do her best to support us or help fix the problem. Nancy Espinsoa has personally been an amazing advisor for me to succeed as a student as well as helping me grow as a human being. In a professional sense, Dr. Phil Lowcock in Kansas Athletics has been a great help in getting me involved with jobs that will allow me to develop valuable skills for sport management. He’s also an excellent professor for HSES Personal Community and Health 260, which I recommend every student taking.
What has been your favorite class at KU? And why?
So far, I’ve had a lot, but I can dial it down to two that I feel will have the most impact on me in the future. The first is Dr. Phil Lowcock’s class HSES 260 Personal Community and Health, mentioned above. The reason being is that to me a lot of the lessons taught are things I already know, but it’s very valuable information that I feel every student should know. As, Dr. Lowcock addresses many controversial issues and dispels a lot of myths that the media and government tend to hype up, but it should only take a good person to know which way of thinking is the most ethical. As mentioned, he is involved in athletics and his approach to teaching reminds me of my past sport coaches. My other favorite class so far, has been HSES 289 Introduction to Sport Management with Dr. Jordan Bass. Dr. Bass is a straight forward professor who doesn’t play around when it comes to learning the concepts pertaining to sport management, he lets us know from the get-go that if we’re not serious about the major then it’s probably not for us. The class has been a great motivator and has gotten me focused in my pursuit of chasing my dream profession. In addition, the class brings in guest speakers and professionals in the career further connecting us in field and providing us with numerous opportunities to reach out to these professionals who could be the people to get us in the sport market in the future. In every profession though I believe that the professors set the pace and put you on the path to success in your field, so thanking them and my other favorite professor Shuai Sun is not enough. I want to show them that I can succeed with the help they’ve given me.
Have you done any internships, study abroad programs, or any other learning experiences you’d like to share? If so, what was that like?
I have not, I have applied for some internships and I am currently waiting to hear back about my status. I will share that they are sports-based internships and hopefully they can set the pace for my professional career going forward. I am planning on studying abroad in the future hopefully in England, as I find the place fascinating along with the fact that its in Europe so there’s all the countries that are in close proximity to each other. But again, I am reserving both experiences for the future.
What advice do you have for other students?
Do what you love, I think for students like me who are too caught up in future success, financial stability, and career outlook you just need some assurance that your plans will work out. So, I say to trust your gut, trust that in whatever you’re passionate about your love for that field will be enough to get you to where you want to be in the future. Yes, people can throw statistics at you saying only so much percent of people make it to here and there, but in the end it’s your willpower that will be the determining factor in how successful you are in the field. Tell those doubters to focus on their own career and their own future, because at the end of the day they aren’t you. You shouldn’t let what anyone else says dictate how you live your life. Don’t let anyone hold you back from accomplishing your dream job and pursuing your dream aspirations!
What do you want to do when you graduate?
I am going to graduate from my undergrad and either decide to stay here [at KU] or find another graduate program that will help me obtain a masters and get a job in the National Basketball Association. That’s my dream job and it always has been, I’ve just been looking in the wrong places and thinking about a future as someone I’m not. I have no doubt that I am going to work in the National Basketball Association. In what position? I honestly don’t know. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be a player, I think anyone who’s a basketball fanatic would want to play in the NBA, however chances are slim. So, more realistically I’m looking at coaching and administration. Nonetheless, I haven’t completely left out the option of playing. I guess we’ll see where I end up.
What motivates you?
My family, community, and financial stability used to be my main motivating factors. Realizing how others see me and if I’m becoming more successful and if I’m not then worrying how they would judge me. I know I still have people looking up to me, but since I’ve become more adjusted to thinking for myself, I’ve come to understand that I am my biggest motivation. I’m learning how to push myself for me and not for anyone else. I set my own limits and know when it best for me to calm down in one area of school or life and focus on another. It’s willpower, but subconsciously providing a great life for my family will always be a huge factor in motivation. In terms of where my future is going it’s solely up to me to guide what pathways I choose to take in order to obtain my dream job.