Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Riley Foreman, MIT (Sloan)

Riley Foreman

MIT, Sloan School of Management

“Communications strategist with a head for numbers and a heart for sports.”

Hometown: Bellevue, WA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once made a 13.1-mile error on what I thought was a half marathon registration and accidentally ran my first – maybe last – full 26.2.

Undergraduate School and Major: Whitman College: B.A., Economics-Mathematics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Seattle Storm – Manager, Public Relations

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I chose Sloan in part for its strong bias for action. Aside from contributing to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, I’m looking forward to pursuing a Business Analytics certificate, joining student-run clubs such as Sloan Women in Management (SWIM), partnering with a company or organization as part of EM-LAB, traveling – can’t wait for Treks in a post-COVID world – and volunteering in Cambridge.

When you think of MIT, what are the first things that come to mind? How have your experiences with the Sloan program thus far reinforced or upended these early impressions? My early impressions of Sloan were formed in 2013 when I first attended the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (SSAC) as an undergraduate student. There I interacted with two companies for which I would later work: MLB Advanced Media and ESPN’s Stats & Information Group (SIG) – and networked with numerous other analytically-minded sports professionals, from team and league representatives to media personalities to wearable tech startups.

Though SSAC is what first put Sloan on my radar for business school, my interactions with admissions, current and incoming students, alumni, faculty, and staff have reinforced my early impressions that Sloanies are passionate, collaborative, imaginative, and adaptable.

 What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? While I’m still getting to know my classmates through our adMIT Slack channel and virtual meet-ups, I would characterize our incoming class as resilient. Though we are starting school in the middle of a global pandemic that will drastically alter our learning environment, we share a mindset of how we best can use our time at Sloan to aid the healing and recovery of our communities.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Generally speaking, my biggest accomplishment in my career thus far has been pushing for equitable media coverage of women’s sports, especially basketball – a sport that I never played, even recreationally. I’m a numbers person, and the one “stat” that made me want to work specifically on women’s sports comes from 2013 study conducted by the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota: despite 40 percent of all athletes identifying as women, only four percent are represented in sports media coverage.

First as ESPN’s lead women’s basketball researcher and then as the Seattle Storm’s head of public relations, I’ve sought to increase media attention for women’s sports by building out numerous databases in order to add historical context surrounding one of the most exciting eras of women’s basketball. I view my “biggest accomplishment” more as a series of smaller wins: providing quality data and information often leads to more stories, more beat writers, more highlights on SportsCenter, and higher TV ratings.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? As the public relations manager of a WNBA team, my scope was one of few that spanned both business and basketball operations. In a single day, I could pitch a potential sponsor, draft a press release announcing a free agency signing, organize media after practice, and escort a player to a community event or speaking engagement. While this unique exposure and my television production roots at ESPN are valuable experiences to have in the sports industry, I feel like the Sloan MBA will sharpen my financial modeling and give me the negotiation acumen needed to lead media rights deals with either a league or streaming platform.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? University of Washington’s Foster School of Business

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most difficult part of the admissions process was not the virtual interview – I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Tommaso Canetta – but rather the one-minute video introduction. When I worked in television production and wrote scripts for SportsCenter anchors, sixty seconds felt like a lifetime. However, when trying to combine five years of work experience with my career aspirations and my potential fit at Sloan, the clock seemed to speed up.

What was the most impact factor in choosing a business school? How did you evaluate fit according to that factor?  I’m probably in a very small group of people who only applied to two schools, both in the third round of admissions, and right as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to shut businesses and schools. Thus, one of the most important factors in choosing between schools was envisioning my fit in a “worst-case scenario.” I asked COVID-related questions during my admissions interviews and had conversations with current students about the transition to remote learning. Though neither school could offer concrete information on the status of the fall semester, I was encouraged by MIT’s reputation for innovation and appreciated the honest evaluations from Sloan staff and students about what had and hadn’t work in a virtual setting. Overall, I felt that MIT could still challenge me to grow personally and professionally, even if we didn’t have the opportunity to gather together in person.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? In my first year in public relations at the Seattle Storm, I assisted a double-arena relocation and franchise-record sponsorship announcement while also receiving a crash course in crisis communications after our star players were ruled out for the season due to injuries and our head coach received a cancer diagnosis. The following season, the WNBA and WNBA Players Union announced a ground-breaking new collective bargaining agreement just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic postponed live sports indefinitely. I wouldn’t be nearly as prepared for business school or understand the many complexities of the sports industry if I hadn’t worked through those challenges to reach the playoffs in 2019 and maneuver a safe return to play in 2020.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from studying it? Outside of the WNBA, one company I love is Ben & Jerry’s. Aside from creating several of my favorite products, they’ve recently made headlines for being on the right side of history. For the many students who are socially-conscious consumers, I think that goes a long way.

DON’T MISS: Meet MIT Sloan’s MBA Class Of 2022

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