The University of Georgia is the only school in the country that houses the Professional Entertainment and Sports Association (PESA).
Founded in December 2010 by former President Kamilah Gray, Gray saw the need for an association specifically for UGA students to pursue career opportunities in music, sports, fashion, television and film industries.
Current president and senior management major Michael Asmelash who started working for PESA in fall 2011 as an executive assistant carries on the same legacy today. Moving up from the administrative position, Asmelash became president following Gray’s graduation in the spring 2012 semester.
“The year before my involvement, there were thirty people who came to the PESA summit,” Asmelash said. “The year I got involved we were able to bring together 300 students and professionals from as far as Missouri, California, and New York all the way to the city of Athens.”
Asmelash attributes the vast expansion of PESA at UGA to his efforts in recruiting various speakers, sponsors and sponsorship packages. Additionally, he helped create the Summit Campus Ambassador program which had various ambassadors from around the state of Georgia market PESA. Those ambassadors include social media partners such as Georgia followers on Twitter, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution entertainment section, and the Recording Academy.
“This year we were able to locate 14 different sponsors,” Asmelash said. “To be able to develop the sponsorship package from literally nothing to over 14 is huge.”
Those in the sponsorship package include Bloomberg Television, the Recording Academy, the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks. Through these firms, the PESA strives to provide a network for students passionate about the entertainment and sports industries, whether that is through connecting students with UGA alumni, through connecting them with company representatives throughout the U.S., or providing them with professional development opportunities.
“We want to be able to say because of their involvement with our organization, we were able to help them land that specific internship or full-time opportunity,” Asmelash said.
Asmelash added that his job title as president includes overseeing the executive board, managing PESA’s sponsorship packages, and setting up the organization’s most visible event, the PESA summit.
“I make sure that everything runs smoothly,” Asmelash said. “In addition to that, I strategize the different speakers we use, come up with various panel topics, and handle scheduling problems.”
The PESA summit which is scheduled for March 4, is the third-annual conference with panels and workshops that discusses business trends and issues within the entertainment and sporting industries. Former participants of the summit include ESPN, Cox Communications, Ralph Lauren, Turner Broadcasting System, and BET according to Asmelash. This year, they are expecting 400 attendees from other colleges in Georgia and beyond, as well as business professionals such as Hawks' general manager Danny Ferry.
PESA is not just broadening its sponsorship from professional sources, but expanding from within as well. Each year, more and more students join the association to give themselves career opportunities, and sophomore probable management major and PESA member Bryan Wish, who joined in December 2011, is looking to broaden his knowledge of the sports and entertainment industry.
“Right now I’m just a regular member,” Wish said. “But next year my goal is to become a member of the executive board, and hopefully take on more responsibilities similar to those of [Asmelash].”
Wish added that he attended the first PESA conference and immediately wanted to get involved so he could expand his opportunities. Wish saw an ad about PESA on a UGA bus, and decided to attend the meeting.
“It made me realize that I needed to get a head start on my career,” Wish said. “It made me understand how hard it is to get a job in the sports and entertainment world.”
One PESA member who already has experience in the sports industry is Jordan Thomas, a third-year public relations and sports management major and sports business director for PESA. Thomas’ job includes acquiring speakers from the sports industry, setting up workshops, and for next week’s summit, Thomas ensured that there is funding for each PESA summit, and also helping students obtain internships and jobs.
“Last year I heard about PESA by way of the summit,” Thomas said. “I am focused more on the sport and athletics side of PESA.”
Thomas included that he has developed opportunities through PESA for himself and for others.
“It’s an opportunity to learn about the sports industry as a whole,” Thomas said. “Watching the summit grow over the years has been the highlight [of working with PESA].”
Thomas said that he now has leverage through ESPN, the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports. This summer, he will work as an intern for ESPN, a position that most would argue is difficult to obtain without the connections that PESA provides UGA students.
“My ultimate goal,” Thomas said “is to help PESA become the most influential and beneficial organization for students applying to work in the entertainment and sports industry.”