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In her words: Jaleesa Rhoden, former NCAA postgraduate intern

Former Georgia basketball player interned in championships and alliances

By Jaleesa Rhoden as told to Kyle C. Leach
Jaleesa Rhoden was a guard on the women’s basketball team at the University of Georgia before coming to the national office as a postgraduate intern. She worked within the championships and alliances group.

In 2013-14, Jaleesa Rhoden was a postgraduate intern at the NCAA and worked within the championships and alliances group, primarily for the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. A native of London, Ontario, Rhoden attended the University of Georgia, where she played on the women’s basketball team and was a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She earned bachelor’s degrees in business administration and consumer economics, as well as a master’s in sport management, also from Georgia. Rhoden is in her second year as an associate within the sports division at Parker Executive Search in Atlanta.

I found out about the NCAA internship when I was a graduate assistant at Georgia. I had talked to a couple of people at the school, and they thought it would be a good opportunity for me to explore and expand my wings past the University of Georgia. Coming from Canada, being a basketball player at Georgia, getting my master’s there, as well, that’s all the experience I had.

Before applying for the internship, I had a graduate assistant position in student services and compliance at Georgia. That piece was pretty important – just having background knowledge in compliance, even though I wasn’t making crucial decisions at Georgia. I also had a broad understanding of how an athletics department operates after interning in the event management group and in development at the UGA Athletic Association.

The main difference for me, going from campus and coming to the national office, it was a much larger group. I learned to understand the differences between, and also the parallels, in terms of always serving for the betterment of the college athlete. Campus was all day, every day – you had to do something each day. But coming to the national office is more corporate-style. You have a job. You get it done. Obviously, when we hosted Men’s Final Four, it was two weeks straight in Texas and getting the job done.

Being an NCAA intern is being part of a new family. To know you’re coming into an organization with a built-in group of friends was comforting. We forged relationships throughout our time at the national office, and we all keep in contact. We’re all very much involved, obviously not on a daily basis, but involved in each other’s lives. Whenever there are conferences and whenever there are things that are going on outside of our individual jobs, we’re always trying to figure out when we can all meet up next. The 2015 NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis was amazing because most of the class came back. We had dinner and just were catching up. It is a family, and we’re very protective of one another. We want one another to succeed and develop as professionals.

Being a part of the national championship in North Texas was amazing. It’s on such a large scale. I have never obviously been a part of something that large before. Each championship preparation starts earlier than when you get to the national office, so at the start of the internship, you’re catching up and you’re trying to learn what’s going on and how you’re going to fit into that puzzle. You just kind of have to get your bearing and understand where you’re going to fit into the puzzle those first couple of months.

The main thing I learned as an NCAA intern was: You never know who’s watching. It is such a large office, and you don’t know everybody here. You can walk around as an intern and feel lost a little bit, but at the same time you can take advantage of the people who are here and the resources that you have. The one thing that I took away from it was, you never know who’s watching you conduct yourself. That always comes back tenfold later in your career. If somebody saw you as an intern at the national office, and you’re working your butt off every day, and you’re getting your job done, and you want to be a part of more, that’s always a great recommendation coming down the line.

The theme of my career so far is expanding my wings. I love the college atmosphere, at the conference office and at the institution level. I love the planning, and I love the events, and I love logistics, and I love putting a puzzle together for such a long period of time or short period of time. Then, you get to sit back and watch it all unfold.