Western Illinois University: Macomb Campus
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Alumni Highlight - Jason Cunningham
Courtesy: Cameron Weidenthaler
The Middle of the Road Has Been a Good Direction for Western Illinois Alum
Former Leatherneck has taken storybook path to NASCAR.
MACOMB, Ill. – When Jason Cunningham started as a volunteer in the Western Illinois athletics media services office after graduating from Illinois College in 2002, NASCAR seemed 500 miles away from where he was. Eventually, Cunningham became a graduate assistant in media services as he completed courses in the graduate sport management program at Western Illinois.
His next stop would be in Athens, Ohio at Ohio University, where he obtained an internship, the capstone experience for his master’s degree, in athletics. He served as the media contact in 2004-05 for baseball, football, men’s basketball and volleyball. Cunningham was hired on full-time in media services at the university in December 2007.
He met his future wife, Jennifer, while in Athens and little did he know that would soon prove to be an important part of his career path. Jennifer took a position at Providence College in Rhode Island, and Cunningham decided to follow her.
“I was looking for anything to get me out east, and it turned out that NASCAR needed someone to be stationed in Providence for their East Tour,” said Cunningham. “I am very happy with the way it turned out.”
Cunningham accepted the position as media coordinator for the Touring Series East in January 2008. Specifically, his main responsibilities involve working with the Whelen Modified and K&N Pro Series East.
“I had been a fan of NASCAR prior to taking the position, but did not really follow it closely,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham’s duties are very similar to those of a media coordinator in intercollegiate athletics. He spends most of his time producing articles and releases for the website. He also produces News and Notes that are distributed to media outlets, which are his version of weekly press notes, and is responsible for all records and archives of his respective tours.
“I never really get too high or low emotionally, and I think that lends itself well to my job,” said Cunningham. “My parents were very influential and brought me up to have strong values. I really try to stay in the middle of the road as much as possible."
Cunningham always looks for a way to improve the relationships in his profession and he finds this a challenging aspect of the position. In addition, Cunningham attempts to avoid disappointing any fans and to learn from fan feedback.
“For example, maybe the fans did not get an autograph, “ said Cunningham. “When you see negative feedback it is an instant reality check that we need to find a better way to do this. Not everyone can be happy, but we can always try to find a better way to build those relationships.”