How Rory Jimerson got to Western Carolina University is interesting enough.
How he’s managed to stay in Cullowhee thanks to the university’s Master of Sport Management Program and his love of athletics, which led to him becoming the school’s director of athletic facilities, is even more interesting.
Jimerson was close to completing his undergraduate degree in sport management at The College at Brockport, a part of the State University of New York System, but he needed to complete a semester-long internship in order to graduate. With the help of some connections, he eventually was referred to Chad Gerrety, WCU’s associate athletic director for external affairs. Gerrety offered Jimerson an internship working with athletics marketing during the 2016 fall semester.
At the time, Jimerson thought he had found his career path. “I said, ‘Marketing is what I want to do,’ ” he recalled. “I love marketing, the engagement with the community, working with the athletes, putting stuff on social media, being at all the games. I said, ‘I don’t want to do anything else other than marketing.’ ”
Hold that thought.
On the last day of his internship, Jimerson was approached by Todd Lawing, who at the time was WCU’s director of internal operations for athletics. Lawing’s assistant had just handed in his two-week resignation, and with basketball season kicking into gear, Lawing needed help immediately. He approached Jimerson.
“Todd came to me and said, ‘I like your personality and I like your work ethic, and I can teach you everything else from there,’ ” Jimerson said. “He said, ‘Would you like the position?’ It kind of just fell into my lap at that point. I was only 23 at the time.”
After discussing it with his mom, Jimerson started his new job in January of 2017. That semester, he also decided to enroll in WCU’s Master of Sport Management Program, which is an online program. He knew the degree would help him perform better in his new position, but also provide credentials and training important for future career advancement. It was a balancing act for Jimerson.
“It was tough,” he said. “Being in facilities and operations, and working in athletics in general, it’s not your average 9-to-5, 8-to-5 job. You put in a lot of hours. You’re kind of the first one in, last one to leave. We have to work a lot of events The first semester wasn’t bad, but when Todd left that summer (to become director of Ramsey Regional Activity Center), it was mainly me running all the events, along with Mark Conlin, who works on the grounds crew.
“It was a lot, and also trying to keep up with the homework. I was getting home at 10 o’clock at night. Instead of going home, eating dinner and going to bed, I’m sitting down on my laptop doing a quiz, writing a paper, catching up on reading. A lot of times my lunch would be reading a book. I’d close my door and start reading a book, or catch up on some question.”
One of the things Jimerson enjoyed about the program is that a lot of what he was learning in class was being applied in his daily job, which gave him a hands-on feel. And although the program was online, there were other WCU employees taking the same courses, which often allowed them to work on group projects together.
Now back to Jimerson not wanting to do anything other than marketing. He took over as director of athletic facilities when Lawing moved to the Ramsey Center. His job entails managing all of WCU’s athletic facilities and running the game-day operations for each event. It’s a lot to juggle, but a lot easier with skills learned in the graduate program. Students can earn a certificate in project management as part of the curriculum.
"The big thing I love about the program is you also get that certificate in project management, as well," Jimerson said. "That was really important and it definitely helped out."
Jimerson also works with visiting teams and the officials to ensure their needs are met. “We’re one of the first ones to meet them,” Jimerson said. “One of our goals is to make sure they’re fully taken care of from when they first step on campus to when they leave. I want them leaving knowing they enjoyed Western Carolina.”
Much like he enjoys his job. “I was here (in facilities) for a week and I said, `I don’t ever want to do marketing again. Operations is what I want to do.’ This job, I completely love it.”
Semester Hours: 30
App. Deadline: Jan. 1, Apr. 15, Nov. 1
Full-Time or Part-Time