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Christian Perez
Christian Perez, a 2015 Recreation, Sport and Tourism graduate, is now Senior Operations Coordinator, Fan Experience for the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer.

Alumni Spotlight—Christian Perez

Alumni of the College of Applied Health Sciences have myriad career options thanks to the tremendous diversity of programs. We periodically will put the spotlight on an alum to find out what they're doing now, what experiences they had and what AHS means to them. This week, we talk to Christian Perez, a 2015 Recreation, Sport and Tourism graduate who is now Senior Operations Coordinator, Fan Experience for the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer.

Q: Why did you pick AHS?

A: From a young age, I always had a fascination and passion for sports. My dream as a kid was to be a professional soccer player, but recognized early on that perhaps I didn’t have the full skillset to do it, but I knew I wanted to be involved in the game off the field. When it came time to apply for colleges, AHS made the most sense for the career path I wanted to take.

Q: Why did you pick RST?

A: I knew I wanted to be involved on the business side of sports, and the Sport Management program provided within RST caught my attention from the start. The atmosphere and family feel of RST and AHS made it a very comfortable environment to be in. You basically knew almost every one of your classmates since you were in 95 percent of the same classes every semester.

Q: Which professors had the most impact on you?

A: My academic advisor at the time, LoriKay Paden, played a big role in me wanting to stay in RST. As a freshman I had my doubts about the academic path I was on, but talking to LoriKay reassured me that I was making the right decision staying in RST. Dr. Michael Raycraft was someone that kept class interesting, even when he maybe knew that the material from that particular day in class wasn’t the most glamorous. He wasn’t afraid to put students on the spot in class when answering questions, which I am thankful for now. It's always good to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Dr. Ryan Gower always had time to meet and chat with you, no matter what he was doing. I remember on days before class, my friends Tim, Tom and I would stop by his office and he was always down to chat or to tell us one his undergrad stories or how his kids were doing. That’s a personality trait that I hope I can replicate.

Q: What course did you most enjoy?

A: Not sure if it is still around, but RST 300 was my first introduction to real world experience. Events and Planning made us engage with outside businesses to put on an event from the bottom up and most of the skills I learned in that class, I can still apply today.

Q: Did you enter AHS knowing your career path, or did AHS help you decide?

A: I had an idea of the career path I wanted to take as far as being involved in the front office of a sports team. However, at the time I did not know that I wanted to get into game day and stadium operations, which is my current role. I always thought that I wanted to get into marketing, and to be honest it just sounded “cool” at the time, but really didn’t know what it entailed to be involved in marketing with a sports team. I was able to get an internship with a minor league baseball that first exposed me to stadium operations, but was not the biggest fan. When an opportunity for an operations internship came up with the Chicago Fire, I took it and haven’t looked back since.

Q:Did your AHS experience lead to your current job?

A: My AHS experience definitely helped prepare me for life after graduation. Being in RST helped build a foundation for what it means to be a business professional and how to market and network yourself to industry leaders. The skills I obtained from time management, communication and organization throughout my Illinois tenure definitely set me up for success post-undergrad.

Q: What was your favorite on-campus experience?

A: It is hard to narrow down a few experiences, let alone just one. That said, the friends I gained throughout my college experience will always be the best part about Illinois. Taking down No. 1-ranked Indiana basketball in 2012 will always be a good memory, though!

Q: What would you say to recommend AHS to a prospective student?

A: First and foremost, always try to keep an open mind! The close connections you can develop with your professors and staff can serve as a great steppingstone for your career post-undergrad. Being involved in a college like AHS gives you the opportunity to meet all your classmates, build relationships, and seek out your professors whenever you need them. Take advantage of being on a Big Ten campus and start to develop your professional network as early as possible, it never hurts to reach out to someone just ask some questions or to pick their brain.

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