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DURHAM, N.C. – With goals already in mind about their future career paths, two young professionals are on the fast track to learning about the field of college athletics as a part of Duke’s new summer internship program. Shalisa Griffin, a rising senior at Delaware State, and Mesha Sloss, a recent graduate of Duke, were selected to complete the inaugural professional development program called the Open Door Initiative.

The eight-week internship was created to provide ethnic minority students with an interest in pursuing a career in athletics an opportunity to interact with current Duke University Athletics professionals. During the course of their time at Duke, Griffin and Sloss will gain exposure to various departments and career paths in collegiate athletics, and will also have the chance to accelerate their learning through professional development sessions.

“We are extremely thrilled and proud to expand our department with this initiative,” said Gerald J. Harrison, who serves as Duke’s Associated Director of Athletics for Human Resources.  “The purpose of this endeavor is to provide opportunities to motivated young men and women, and we could not be more excited to have Shalisa and Mesha in our first group.”

For Griffin, who hopes to enter the field of operations management, and Sloss, who is headed to Duke’s School of Law in the fall to study sports law, the Open Door Initiative presents the perfect complement to their professional goals.

“We’re basically available to everybody in the athletic department which is great because we have different areas we want to go into,” Griffin said. “You have the chance to figure out exactly what position you want to take on. It’s the ideal opportunity.”

During their first week of the program, Griffin and Sloss met with representatives from a variety of departments, including human resources, compliance, athletics travel and sports information. The informational sessions detailed the different functions performed to keep the athletics department running smoothly, and covered topics ranging from networking and résumé writing to social media to athletic facilities.

Sloss says the opportunity to meet with current professionals in the field has greatly aided her understanding of the skills and characteristics necessary to excel in athletics. She has also been able to make numerous contacts throughout the athletic department, including some who she identifies as role models for her own aspirations in sports law and policy.   

“The biggest thing I’ve learned since being here is understanding the importance of networking and making sure that you get people’s information and stay in touch with them,” she said. “You never know who might be with you in the future.”

Another aspect of the Open Door Initiative program designed to enhance Griffin and Sloss’ experience is the chance to complete three-week rotations as full-time interns in the compliance and marketing offices at Duke. During that time, they will learn first-hand the responsibilities of both departments while working alongside current staff members. Under the guidance of Harrison, both Griffin and Sloss will also collaborate on a capstone project, applying the skills and knowledge acquired throughout their entire eight-week experience.

“We’re definitely getting a crash course,” Griffin said. “The sport industry in general is a ‘go-getter’ field – you can’t sit in the background at all. This is the perfect opportunity.”


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