ESPN Taps Quinnipiac for First Year of Mentoring Program

By Carolyn Braff
Beginning this fall, ESPN is getting college students involved in its Bristol, CT, headquarters in a whole new way — one that does not involve any ESPN content. The network is matching each of seven employees from its Affiliate Sales and Marketing division with one junior or senior from
Quinnipiac
University’s ALANA (Asian, Latino, African, and Native American) program to participate in a mentoring opportunity designed to provide students with guidance and advice as they navigate their final collegiate years.
“Diversity is a very important thing for ESPN,” explains Brendan Canning, senior director of digital video distribution, Affiliate Sales and Marketing. “It’s very important for us to establish not only a strong bench but also a diverse bench. It’s not just a matter of people coming to us and applying for internships; it’s important for us to go out into the community and to develop that talent pool before they’re ready for internships or a job at ESPN.”
Students from the
Hamden, CT, school who complete the mentoring program are eligible to apply for ESPN’s internship programs in marketing, sales, or media, but the mentoring program itself is specifically designed not to be an internship.
“This is really a professional mentoring program, which is a little bit different,” Canning says. “There’s no work that they’re doing with respect to ESPN at all. Our mentors here will help them in their development as a student and young leader, but there’s no ESPN content involved.”
The mentors will meet with their students at least twice each year in person and are expected to be in phone contact throughout the year to review résumés, conduct mock interviews, and provide general career and professional advice.
“This is also an opportunity to help the high performers within our group with their coaching and management skills,” Canning says. “They really understood the importance of doing this and the two-fold advantage, of helping to develop themselves as leaders within our organization and also the importance of reaching out to grow our organization.”
Canning approached Quinnipiac as the inaugural participant in this program after he heard of a similar mentorship undertaken between Quinnipiac and Target Corp., but he is certainly open to expanding the program, both to more departments at ESPN and to more partner universities.
“This is a pilot program,” Canning says. “It’s the first time that I think we’ve ever done this sort of organized program. We’re going to see how it goes, evaluate it, talk to our mentors, talk to Quinnipiac, see what kind of changes we can make to it. If we feel that we can roll this out further, to other parts of the company, we will certainly share that. If it means going to other schools and grow it that way, we’re definitely interested in that as well.
“We’ll look to tweak the program and to see if there’s an opportunity to roll it out further.”