Before she was a sports management and marketing professor, Dr. Karla Jones spent a three-year period at Wachovia Bank, leaving her master’s degree in exercise and sports science untouched.
“I woke up one morning and said, ‘this has to change,’ ” said Dr. Jones. She is the newest professor of sports management at Queens and grew up in Fayetteville, N.C., a military town with a tight-knit community.
“There were eight high schools in our city and we came together as teens for all major events; whether it was sports-related, prom, graduations, or community gatherings, just to interact with each other,” Dr. Jones said. It was this bond that nurtured her budding interest in sports.
However, Jones was originally interested in pursuing a career in health. In the physical therapy path at East Carolina University, Jones realized her true passion was exercise physiology and sports science.
Even though she graduated from ECU with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science in 2000 and then a master’s in athletic administration in 2002, her short stint in banking took place after an internship with the Carolina Panthers was canceled. She realized that banking wasn’t a career she wanted to pursue.
She started working for the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006 and stresses the importance of field experience and networking in the sports industry. She later earned a doctorate in business administration and sports management and leadership at Northcentral University. One of her professors was the sports agent for Venus and Serena Williams. After learning everything she could from the best, she said, “I ended up transferring out of the school because there were not more people who knew anything about sports management. I enrolled in the United States Sports Academy and had a great experience, and it motivated me to continue to try to land the job I wanted.”
That job, she said, was being a professor. Before Queens, Dr. Jones taught at The University of Phoenix, Johnson C. Smith University and Central Piedmont Community College.
She wants her students to be successful in sports management and marketing. “My goal was and is to help them get in front of people in the industry because for this field, that is the only way to go.” Dr. Jones has also planned and managed several sports management career conferences as well as discussions and sessions in health and wellness.
Because she was already familiar with online teaching, the pandemic did not disrupt her workflow too heavily. However, she misses being able to network and hold conferences because the field experience is key to this industry. “I can lecture, but I prefer to have my students involved, engaged and having a great learning experience.”
Dr. Jones joined the Queens community as an adjunct professor in 2014. “Over the years I can say I have only had good experiences at Queens.” She looks forward to growing the sports management program, starting new clubs and representing the Queens community.
Looking back, Dr. Jones has no regrets regarding her path and is excited to continue to teach in higher education.
“I think [my path] helped open my eyes to the dos and don’ts of the sports industry. I thought I had done everything right, but as you can see, things still fell apart. I did become complacent for three years, but broke free from a field that I wasn’t passionate about and did not go to school for.”