Wharton West Coast EMBA Alumna Makes Social Impact through Sports

Before I came to Wharton, I was running my healthcare consulting practice in the Bay Area, where we did marketing and communications work and worked with celebrities and athletes on cause marketing projects. I always wanted to be in the sports field – and was tangentially working in that area — but hadn’t figured out how to successfully pursue this career track. I decided to get my MBA to build my core business knowledge and explore potential opportunities to make a career transition.

In my second year at Wharton, I took Negotiations with Prof. Kenneth Shropshire, who is a renowned expert in the sports industry. I discussed with him my career aspirations and asked for advice on the right way to transition to a career in the sports industry. In addition to providing advice and counsel, he invited me to work with him to develop and launch the Wharton Sports Business Initiative (WSBI). This proved to be an invaluable platform.

WSBI is a sports business and executive education think tank, and through partnerships, high-level consulting projects, academic research and global forums, we bridge the gap between practice and academia in sports. While I have been involved in many aspects of the WSBI, my areas of focus are social impact/sports philanthropy and professional athlete development/education. I’m very passionate about sports philanthropy, and through the WSBI, I work with strategic partners, plan forums and engage students. On the player development side, I help develop and teach programs, such as the Business Management and Entrepreneurship Program for NFL players.

After graduation, Prof. Shropshire encouraged me to consider teaching. I started out as his teaching assistant for Negotiations and was given a faculty appointment at Wharton in 2004. In addition to teaching Negotiations at Wharton for undergraduate students, I teach negotiations for a variety of clients, including the NBA Players’ Association, sports agencies, and Goldman Sachs Foundation.

In 2006, I moved to Washington DC where I was introduced to the former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Alonzo Fulgham. He had an interest in using sports as a platform for development and diplomacy and encouraged me to consider joining USAID to launch a formal sport for development effort.

While I recognized the global reach of sports, I had never thought about working with the U.S. government in this area so the opportunity was exciting. In 2010, I became the first-ever senior advisor of sport for development. In addition to trying to use sports to raise public awareness of USAID’s development efforts, I work with our missions around the world as a lead technical advisor to leverage sports as a platform to engage communities.

At USAID, I’m also building strategic partnerships with leagues, teams and athletes to create sports programs that further our development efforts. For example, we are building a partnership with Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association to focus on youth education in the Dominican Republic (DR). This partnership will use the DR’s strong affinity for baseball to engage youth in education initiatives, tackling the acute education challenges in the country.

Recently, we created a unique and very exciting partnership with the National Basketball Association in Africa to promote youth development, using basketball as a catalyst for address issues, such as education, leadership, work force development, peacekeeping and health education.

I feel so lucky to be able to teach and work in sports and to find such passion in what I do day in and day out. The ROI on my Wharton education has been so big that it’s hard to put into words.

Anybody who graduates from Wharton’s EMBA program should have the confidence in their business acumen and network to successfully pursue the career path of their choice. They can do anything they want! I speak from experience: I teach because of Wharton. I am successfully immersed in the sports industry because of Wharton. In fact, just about everything I do in my career has been because of, attributed to, or driven by my Wharton experience.

Mori Taheripour graduated in the inaugural Wharton West Coast EMBA class in San Francisco in 2003. She is now an affiliated faculty member for the Wharton Sports Business Initiative (WSBI) and senior advisor of sport for development at USAID. We asked her to talk about how she used her Wharton education to transition from consulting to her passion of sports.