Directing Her Future

CAFNR's Katie Ottolin is a big part of MU's big event

Katie OttolinKatie Ottolin. Photo by Kyle Spradley

Katie Ottolin says being part of the top planning group for Mizzou’s biggest event is like “sprinting a marathon.” But one look at Katie’s resume and it’s obvious she loves every minute of it.

Ottolin, a senior in sport management from Wheaton, Ill., was selected as a Homecoming Tri-Director last November. She and two other MU seniors oversee a team of 30 students on nine committees to pull off a week-long celebration of everything black and gold.

Ottolin heads three of the committees: Traditions (Royalty); Talent; and Campus Outreach; making sure they are staying on track with their tasks. The Tri-Directors tackle the big picture items, while the committees handle the smaller details, she said. In a typical week Ottolin has seven to eight meetings.

The Talent Committee, for example, puts on three nights of performances, including Greek groupings creating a skit and dance around a theme – this year’s theme is major cities – and in-between acts who tryout to perform. The events are live-streamed online or can be seen at a live watch party at the Shack in the MU Student Center, which also includes food and other live entertainment.

Ottolin credits her parents and her degree program for her hard work ethic and ability to be flexible.

“Sport Management is always changing: rules, laws, cases,” Ottolin said. “You have to go with the flow and think on your feet but also know what happened in the past. That directly relates to planning homecoming.”

Ottolin’s father Mark is a cardiologist, and her mother, Judy, is a homemaker. They encouraged Ottolin and her three brothers (the older two also attended MU, the younger is still deciding) to give 110 percent to everything they choose to partake in.

“Take pride in your work,” she said her parents encouraged her. “And if I love it, it’s worth it. I saw my Dad come home late many nights. But he loves helping people.

“My Mom is so humble. I try to follow in her footsteps,” Ottolin said. “It is about being given the opportunity and completing it to your best ability, not about the recognition of completing it.”

Ottolin and the other Tri-Directors also are guided by Aly Friend, coordinator of student programs at MU, and a CAFNR alumna (Hospitality Management ‘12).

What can alumni expect from Ottolin’s careful planning? Homecoming 2013, “The Black and Gold Standard,” will continue a tradition started last year – a free concert on Friday night.

“Each year Homecoming goes up a notch,” she said. “We build off last year each year. I am in awe of what this campus puts together.”

Ottolin’s goal is to include as many MU students in Homecoming events as possible. That’s really why she got interested in applying for the Homecoming Steering Committee at the end of her sophomore year in the first place – and what she’s loved best about the experience.

“I wanted to be involved at MU and meet new people,” she said. “The people I’ve worked with have had such an impact on me. They are such strong leaders in so many aspects.”

And although Ottolin was hesitant about following her brothers to the University of Missouri, she loved it as soon as she visited.

“I like how big it is but how small it feels,” she said of MU. “People are so happy to be here.”

And after initially entering as an education major, she has now found a home in CAFNR, too. When she met with her future advisor in Sport Management for the first time, she said it was such a personal experience – her advisor wanted to know about her and her goals.

“CAFNR is so close,” she said. “People hang out together in between classes. They don’t just come to go to class and leave. Everyone is so welcoming in CAFNR.”

Ottolin’s plan after graduation is to coach basketball (she is also the president of MU’s Club Basketball Team) – but she’s not sure if she’ll pair that with teaching, or perhaps business or law. She was a three-sport varsity athlete in high school.

“My life has revolved around sports,” she said. “And through coaching I can be a role model and a mentor. I enjoy teaching someone something and seeing their pure excitement. And then they go on and teach someone else.”

CAFNR is also represented on the Homecoming Steering Committee by Matt Eisenbath, senior in science and agricultural journalism; Britt Kagay, senior in agribusiness management;  Alexea Neisen, senior in agribusiness management; and Dustin Wilkerson, senior in plant sciences.


This program is designed to prepare students for the highly competitive sport management industry, and is part of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism in CAFNR’s School of Natural Resources.

The Sport Management program aims to develop students into productive and highly successful sport managers by continuously analyzing sport in a critical and insightful manner over the course of research, teaching and hands-on experience. The Sport Management program was created nearly three years ago; it now has approximately 450 students.

Sport Management is an active and growing field, according to Nick Watanabe, assistant teaching professor in Parks, Recreation and Tourism. The sport industry is now several times larger than the automotive industry, for example, and has tens of billions of dollars of economic activity in the United States alone.

Career opportunities in the sport industry include management and administration; finance and accounting; marketing, communications and public relations; sport attorney; athlete agent/representative; sport media and reporting; sport facility management; sport engineer; sport statistics and database management; organizational IT; stadium and facility architect and designer.

Learn more about CAFNR’s Sport Management program.