Success Story

The Penn State Brand Academy hosts inaugural educational networking event

UNIVERSITY PARK – The Penn State Brand Academy hosted its first educational networking event, the Lions to Leaders Symposium, to connect student-athletes with successful Penn State student-athlete alums on Wednesday, April 10.  

The mission of The Brand Academy is to empower student-athletes to manage and monetize their personal brand through comprehensive educational programs encompassing leadership, strategic direction, and entrepreneurship.  

The inaugural event featured a panel discussion and an interactive Q&A session of former student-athletes who have carved their paths as entrepreneurs and impactful philanthropists. 

Panelists included Football Alum Anthony “Spice” Adams, ‘02; Cheerleading Alum Haley McClain Hill, ‘18; Football Alum LaVar Arrington, ‘99; and Fencing Alum Jennifer Hudson, ‘15. The panel was facilitated by Penn State Football Alum Omar X. Easy, Ph.D., recently appointed director of The Brand Academy. 

“Be authentic to yourself; your sport goes away after a while,” said Hudson during the panel discussion. “Dig into who you are outside of your sport. Start building your brand while you’re here, and that will accelerate you in the right direction.” 

Graduate student in the Smeal College of Business MBA program Jess Mruzik was one of several student-athletes from the Penn State women’s volleyball team in attendance at the event. She said her team enjoyed the event and were happy to have learned from such engaging speakers. 

“The biggest takeaway for me was just being proactive and doing it yourself – nobody is just going to hand you Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals,” Mruzik said. “Especially being a female athlete, we have to work really hard to have our voices be heard, and it’s all about being proactive and getting our names out there.” 

The Brand Academy plans to host one large event like this one per semester and will hold several educational seminars and summits throughout the year with student-athletes. 

“Our future seminars and summits will cover topics such as personal branding strategy for both now and the future, entrepreneurship and financial competency, as well as managing and monetizing Name, Image and Likeness,” said Easy. “I’m excited to keep the energy building around these topics and to dive into providing our student-athletes with the resources they need to succeed.” 

Easy spoke in depth about both his background and The Brand Academy in the most recent episode of Invent Penn State’s Dare to Disrupt podcast. 

“It just shows NIL has come a long way, that we can have events like this where speakers come talk to us about their journeys and what we need to do to grow,” said women’s volleyball player Taylor Trammell, a senior studying sociology in the College of the Liberal Arts. “I’m super excited just to see where NIL goes from here.” 

About The Penn State Brand Academy 

The Penn State Brand Academy, a joint initiative of Invent Penn State and Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics, empowers student-athletes with the tools, resources, and knowledge to elevate their personal brands and leverage their monetary potential through Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) opportunities. By providing innovative educational programming, exclusive access to successful alums, and direct connections to partnership opportunities, The Brand Academy equips student-athletes with the skills they need to thrive both on and off the field.