NC State Alumnus Michael Smith is used to living in the fast lane, literally. Smith works in the corporate sales department at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.
Prior to landing what Smith considers a dream job, he worked part time at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, taking part in events. He also worked part time at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It was during this time that Smith decided to pursue a graduate degree in sports management.
“Due to my work schedule, I knew that online was the only feasible option. I researched different online graduate programs for sports management and found NC State’s to be the most affordable due to being an in-state resident living in Charlotte,” Smith said.
Smith, who was born in Raleigh and came from a family of NC State graduates, grew up as a Wolfpack fan.
“It had always been a dream of mine to get a degree from NC State and no one in my family had ever earned a master’s degree, so there was a lot of motivation to be the first one in my family to do that, as well as to earn a degree from my dream school,” Smith said.
NC State was like the girl he had a crush on for so long, Smith explained. After several years, he finally got the courage to apply. NC State said “yes” on July 23, 2012, and he was enrolled into the Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sport Management Online Master’s Degree program offered by the College of Natural Resources.
During his time as an online distance education student, Smith grew to enjoy his Strategic Marketing Management course with Associate Professor Dr. Jonathan Casper. Smith said the course was directly related to what he wanted to accomplish professionally.
“Dr. Casper’s course allowed the creativity to put a marketing plan together for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, where ideas from that very project were actually later implemented by the NASCAR Hall of Fame itself,” Smith said. “I took great pride in that.”
Smith also found the discussions during online classes to be more engaging. He added that distance education also forced him to manage his time and be more focused.
“I liked that it made me solely responsible for my own success or failure, which again, is excellent training for the corporate world.”
Smith credits class project with helping him build relationships with leaders in the NASCAR industry. This networking eventually allowed him to get a promotion at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Smith said he gained a lot of self-confidence while pursuing his master’s degree online at NC State. It gave him the confidence to pursue higher sales goals, go after his current dream job and implement new ideas and strategies to better market Darlington Raceway and its events.
“I am a better version of myself because of the education I received at NC State,” Smith said.
Smith completed his degree in 2014 and was hired at Darlington Raceway February 2016 as a full-time account executive where he continues to do what he loves.