2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Rob Belk, Duke University (Fuqua)

Rob Belk

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“An NFL quarterback trapped in a slow body with a weak right arm.”

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve connected my passion for cheering on the Carolina Panthers with my love of sharing new information with others. Four years ago, I created a weekly fan newsletter called “Cats Scoring Points.” The newsletter, which I was able to monetize with local sponsors (shout out to Williams GMC and Buick and to TBIII Transport) enables the more casual fan to “score points” with others watching the game using the nuggets of information from the newsletter. Go Panthers!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Virginia, B.A. in Economics and History

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was at Wasserman, a sports marketing and talent agency as a pre-MBA Intern.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I interned with the NFL in the Club Business Development group.

Where will you be working after graduation? Activision, Part of the Esports Strategy and Team Business Operations

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Co-President, Media Entertainment and Sports (MES Club): With the support of my incredible co-president Tanya Assar and a dedicated cabinet of first and second years, we’ve been able to build a structured career track for the sports and media industries. This year we started two new initiatives, “Career MESsages,” which brings in leaders to highlight their career path, and “Playbook” recruiting sessions to illuminate the steps necessary to recruit in the industry. In addition to the Fuqua Sports Business Cohort (FSBC), we’ve added the Fuqua Media and Entertainment Cohort (FMEC) and the Fuqua Esports and Gaming Cohort (FEGC) to support specific career interests.

Co-Founder, Fuqua Sports Business Cohort: As an incoming first year, I co-founded the Fuqua Sports Business Cohort with second-year Kevin Kumlien and Assistant Dean Steve Misuraca. The cohort was established to focus specifically on day-to-day projects, trends, and challenges in the sports industry. We also plan social events, which have included Durham Bulls minor league baseball games and sports trivia nights.

Distinguished Speaker Series Fellow: Dean Boulding brings in business leaders throughout the year to speak to the school about being a true “leader of consequence.” I am part of the group of fellows that coordinates the speaker series and introduces the speakers. This past fall I was fortunate to introduce P&G’s CEO David Taylor.

Durham Boys and Girls Club Tutor: I volunteer each week at the local Durham Boys and Girls Club. I typically spend a few hours tutoring 2nd and 3rd graders in math and science. However, one of the highlights each week is the gym time. It is one of the few moments in my life I’ve been the most athletic player on the court.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? When I arrived at Duke as a first year, opportunities in sports business were fragmented. Along with a group of dedicated classmates, we have established a legitimate sports business track. We are now sending Fuqua students to leagues, teams, athletic suppliers, and sports marketing firms, while also developing experiential opportunities with the Duke Athletic Department.

My goal is to establish Fuqua as the daytime MBA program for sports business and I think we are on the right path to achieve that goal.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As a management consultant, I had a high-profile project with a client that was initially planned to be a three-month engagement. Ultimately, we kept winning work and our scope extended to over two years. We suggested several creative solutions that positioned the client for much greater success. The director on my project, Steve Schaffer, became a life-long friend and mentor, and we successfully retrofitted a 750K square foot e-commerce facility. In the process, I was able to own several work streams. Most importantly, I learned how to work through business challenges and how to develop strong relationships with a client.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? The caliber of the faculty at Fuqua could directly compete with any other top MBA program and there are too many good professors to choose from the group. The person I’ve enjoyed learning from the most at Fuqua has been Steve Misuraca. While not a member of the faculty (Steve is the Assistant Daytime Dean), Steve could easily teach a class on empathy, leadership under adversity, and of course, Duke athletic history. I’ll be forever grateful for the friendship I have with Steve and the passion and the energy he pours into Fuqua.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Aaron “Ronnie” Chatterji’s Advanced Corporate Strategy class, or as it is known among students, “CEO Activism.” Ronnie is a master at facilitating classroom discussion, especially on challenging subjects. His subject matter expertise on business activism inspired me to take an independent study under his tutelage. I’ve spent the past several months creating and analyzing unique datasets on the players that have protested social injustice in the NFL and the way fans have reacted to the protests.

Why did you choose this business school? I went back to business school for a career switch into the sports business. I wanted to go to a school that would give me an opportunity to build a network in the space as well as gain valuable internship experience. The Duke alumni base is incredibly talented, generous, and engaged in helping students succeed. Relative to its size, Duke has the strongest sports business alumni base in the country. Furthermore, Fuqua set me up to succeed in a relevant internship and working experiences. Fuqua gave me the foundational support and the connections to intern with Wasserman and the NFL, while also giving me opportunities with the Duke Athletic Department.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? One of the unique things about Fuqua’s application process is the “25 Things About Me” essay. Don’t take this lightly, as it highlights the emphasis we put on authenticity and finding the right people to fill each class. It is important to spend time thinking about how you can genuinely convey something unique that you bring to the Fuqua community. Fuqua prides itself on bringing together a strong group of diverse leaders who will excel in the classroom, but more importantly can connect well with people and have the potential to lead teams.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth is that Durham is a small town that lacks big city excitement. Durham seems to have a new brewery or restaurant open each month and great music comes through the area regularly.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I had known just how incredible my classmates were going to be. It took me several months to get to know a majority of the folks and I wish I had spent more time upfront getting to know my class better. Now that we will be spread out around the globe, I wish I could hold onto the moments of listening to Jordan Terry lead 7:30 a.m. improv sessions, joining Maggie Steenland as she plans another fun group event, and staying grounded with the Tuesday night Dains crew.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Through classroom discussion, club ally sessions, and general conversations with friends, I’ve learned to put an even greater emphasis on diverse opinions and backgrounds. I feel like I am much better equipped to be led by and to lead people from all backgrounds. I am grateful to all my classmates who have challenged me, pushed the status quo, and worked to illuminate different perspectives so that we might all become better people and better business leaders.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my classmate and my friend Jenna Weiner. Jenna has an incredible work ethic, the ability to find creative solutions, and a selfless drive to support the team. She combines her sharp mind with genuine empathy. If a class has team-based work, the first person I am asking to join a team is Jenna. As a dual-degree MEM/MBA (Environmental Management/Master of Business Administration), Jenna Weiner will be the next great energy industry CEO.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My Dad was the biggest influence for me to pursue my MBA. Throughout his career, he has humbly led with a passion for making his business and the others around him successful, while also putting his family and his faith first. I hope to emulate him as a business leader one day.

What is your favorite movie about business? Heavyweights. If you buy an existing business and expect to retain the same clientele, don’t try to radically change the product by introducing too much change too fast.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? “The Fox.” The term is very important as it refers to the “Fox Center”, which is the physical heart of the school. Students are at the Fox at all times of the day, typically sharing a meal, engaging in a coffee chat, or working on a project. Usually, it is all three.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a food entrepreneur trying to open the first Bojangles franchise in New York City.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? It is difficult to monetize the exposure to world-class faculty and classmates that encouraged me to stretch myself past what I thought I was capable of achieving. I am confident that the benefits have outweighed the costs. I know that I will continue to see ROI each year after school thanks to my Fuqua network and the opportunities provided by Fuqua.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

#1 Live and work abroad

#2 Visit each NFL stadium (12 already down!)

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as someone who found joy and success by pursuing a passion as opposed to pursuing an expectation.                                                                                                                            

Hobbies? Watching and tweeting about sports (@JRBelk); Running new trails (Durham Greenway); Trying new hot sauces (Heathens Hot Sauce); Reading new books (The Last Days of Night); Exploring new countries (30+); Playing golf (Poorly)

What made Rob such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“There are a few special cases each year where I have the privilege of interacting with a subset of student leaders more intimately because of their curiosity, desire for selfless service, and desire to leave a lasting legacy at Duke. Rob Belk is one of those select few, as his intelligence, generosity, work ethic, and care for others stand out among all the students in my 10+ years at Fuqua.

I admire that Rob constantly seeks to not only improve himself at Fuqua, but also looks to amplify the experience of others. He has been very intentional with his actions here at Duke, focusing on leading and inspiring others, specifically as it relates to making Duke the best sports business destination in the world!

As co-president of the Fuqua Media, Entertainment, and Sports Club (MES), as well as co-founder of the Fuqua Sports Business Cohort (FSBC), Rob has sought out co-curricular positions that allow him the time and space to positively influence his peers. As a result of Rob’s leadership, collaboration, and the enthusiasm and knowledge he helped build among the cohort, Fuqua students secured an unprecedented number of prestigious sports related summer internships during the past two years.

Recently, Rob received one of Fuqua’s highest honors, the Fuqua Paired Principle award for “Authentic Engagement.” In celebrating this award, and recognizing Rob’s contribution to his peers, one of Rob’s classmates shared the following that was printed with the award: “A quiet leader, Rob thoughtfully contributes to classroom discussions, genuinely engages with the people around him, and has a uniquely inclusive soul. He effortlessly fosters community at Fuqua, and will assuredly continue to make an impact while here.”

As a student, teammate, and leader at Fuqua, Rob inspires and motivates all to bring their best every day. As I have grown into my role as dean, it has been a gift to partner with and learn from Rob.”

Steve Misuraca

Assistant Dean of the Daytime MBA Program

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business



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