Western Illinois University: Macomb Campus
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Alumni Highlight - Ross Bjork
Ross Bjork, the Director of Athletics at Western Kentucky University, offered some career advice to current students and discussed his career path during a few phone interviews. During his time at WIU, Bjork was a graduate assistant for Campus Recreation and served as a volunteer for the athletic department. Bjork has experienced a great deal of success at all the positions he has held.
Prior to his current position at Western Kentucky, Bjork spent five years at UCLA as the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development and External Relations. Bjork directed capital fund-raising, The John Wooden Athletic Fund, Bruin Varsity Club, major gifts, marketing, promotions, ticket sales, branding, licensing, merchandising, corporate sponsorships, ISP Sports, radio rights, television rights and the athletics website. Total giving to UCLA Athletics doubled in his first year and season ticket sales for football and men's basketball increased to record totals.
Before UCLA, Bjork spent two years on the executive staff at the University of Miami and oversaw all revenue production. During his time at Miami, he directed the search process for hiring Frank Haith as the men's basketball coach, served as the day to day liaison with men's basketball, served as the contact for the University President's office, secured the naming rights for a $52 million on-campus arena and re-negotiated Miami's Nike and Gatorade contracts.
Bjork also spent six and half years at the University of Missouri, where he oversaw all development operations. Under Bjork’s direction, total giving to Missouri Athletics increased from $2.1 million in 1996 to $16 million in 2003. Bjork also directed the sales campaign of the football suites' project and implemented the seating program for Missouri's new basketball arena. He oversaw the generation of $88 million in donations for the Champions for Life Capital Campaign.
On his journey to Western Kentucky, Bjork found out that having good interpersonal skills is extremely crucial. Through experiences and observations, he developed his interpersonal skills and these have helped him deal with difficult situations and conflict, understand the importance of praise in the work environment, and learn how to effectively motivate employees. Bjork emphasizes that interpersonal skills are continually learned on the job and without them success is very difficult to achieve.
Bjork also emphasized the importance of getting a lot of experience at the start of a career. According to Bjork, there is no substitute for the value of real life experience. This can be obtained through multiple avenues such as a job, graduate assistantship or volunteer work. Producing tangible outcomes during these experiences is important because such outcomes provide measurable success and help develop a resume.
Along with getting experience, Bjork believes that building a network and getting to know professionals in the field is highly important. A solid network can help a person attain job opportunities and receive advice for a current position.