The Grand Stage of All: The Olympics
Two Providence College alumni, Emily Sisson ’14 and Ben Connor ’15 competed in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Sisson, one of the most decorated Friars of all-time, competed in the women’s 10,000-meter competition while Connor competed in the men’s marathon.
A lot of hard work and preparation went into both competitors’ journeys to the Olympics. Sisson, a resident of Phoenix, AZ, was a former All-American and NCAA Champion in Friartown.
In 2015, Sisson competed at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, OR where she became an NCAA Champion in the 5000-meter race with a time of 15:34.10. She then went on to do the same thing in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, AR where she won the 5000-meter race with a time of 15:32.15.
Sisson, now 29 years old, was also part of the Friar cross country team in 2013 which won the NCAA Championship.
After graduating in 2015, Sisson’s first major appearance was at the World Championships in London, United Kingdom in 2017. There she would race in the 10,000 meter race and finish 9th with a time of 31:26.36.
In the buildup to the Olympics, Sisson was required to race in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon on June 26, 2021.
Sisson had originally entered the U.S. Olympic marathon trials and was the favorite in the event in Atlanta back in 2020. She would endthe race in heartbreak; after 22 miles she dropped out of the competition.
In a later interview, Sisson said “That really broke my heart. I went all in on that, and it really didn’t work out. I was very confused after.”
She would then race in the 10,000 meter event in Eugene, Oregon and won the race in an Olympic Trials record time of 31:03.82. After taking the lead in the fifth of 25 laps, Sisson never looked back and dominated the event in hot conditions.
Then came the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. In an interview after the race, Sisson said her goal was to finish sixth to eighth in therace which would be her Olympic track debut.
In the end, she placed 10th in the event with a final time of 31:04.46.
Sisson is still coached by Friar head coach Ray Treacy who has continued to help athletes in his time. She and coach Treacy thought the start of the race may go out a little faster than it did and Treacy told Sisson to “go with the second pack and reel people in and win the race that you’re in.”
In the end, Sisson said “It was a grind, but I’m proud of my effort. Another learning experience.”
The second Providence alumni, Ben Connor, competed in the Men’s Marathon. Connor, from Derby, England had a successful four years in Friartown.
His senior year from 2014-15 would be his most complete year. In Cross Country, Connor placed eighth at the BIG EAST Championships with a time of 23.59.9. A couple of weeks later, he finished second at the NCAA Northeast Regionals with a time of 30:29.2 and collected an All-Regional honor.
At the NCAA Cross Country Championships that same season, Connor placed 30th with a time of 30:48.6 which earned him All-American honors. He would not compete in indoor or outdoor track in his final year as he did his sophomore and junior years.
Connor’s personal best records in his Providence stint was 8:12.18 in the 3,000 meter event, 14:08.11 in the 5,000 meter event, and 29:18.62 in the 10,000 meter event.
After graduating, Connor would head back to the United Kingdom to train and compete. Just like Sisson, Connor trained with coach Ray Treacy in the United States and in Manchester, United Kingdom. However, since 2019, Connor has self- coached.
In 2017, Connor would compete in the English National Cross Country Championships where he won the event. In 2019, Connor won the British Championships Night of 10K PBs event and the Podium 5k event. In 2020, he ran a half-marathon personal best time of 1:00:55 in Antrim where he finished third but was the fourth fastest half marathon time by a Briton.
Connor’s first marathon was the 2020 London Marathon. He finished the race as the second highest finishing Briton, at 10 seconds better than the Olympic qualifying time. He would finish 15th in the event.
In the 2021 British Athletics Marathon, Connor met the qualification time and finished second at the trial event to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Former Associate Editor-in-Chief Katie Torok ’20
The Intersection of Storytelling, Publishing, and Sales
by Sara Conway ’21 A&E Co-Editor
“I’ve loved stories my entire life.” Katie Torok ’20 sits in a comfortable armchair, books on floating shelves peeking into the video frame behind her.
Regardless of the medium or format of these stories, part of that love came from being an only child. Torok adds, “Through books, I found that I had siblings I could look up to, whether that was Katniss in The Hunger Games or any of the characters from Perks of Being a Wallflower. I felt completely immersed in these characters, and they felt so real.”
Storytelling is at the heart of Torok’s leap into the publishing industry; in fact, this is at the center of many critical decisions, she reflects. Storytelling is “why I was an English major; and why I joined The Cowl: to help tell stories, whether they were out of Providence College or the Providence community.” At the end of the day, Torok wanted to break into the publishing industry because of “storytelling and [to give] people and their stories a shot.”
Torok is currently a sales assistant on the National Accounts team at Penguin Random House Publisher Services, the client division of PRH, based in New York City. Her team works with over 50 independent publishers across the United States and London, where they “help small unique books get into larger accounts.” These accounts include Amazon, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, and wholesale clubs, which Torok mostly deals with, such as Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club. She now has this goal from working in sales: “to get the super small niche stories out to everyone.”
But let us take a few steps back to when Torok was accepted into the Columbia Publishing Course. It is February 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was still barely a concern in our minds; the location is The Cowl office in the lower level of Slavin.
Those who are familiar with The Cowl office know that the beanbag chairs are way too comfortable for their own good. Torok was sitting in one when she noticed that she was getting a call from New York City. The amount of spam calls she had been receiving were quite frequent, so Torok almost did not pick up. Luckily, at the last moment, she did. And it was the call to pick up. Shaye Areheart, the director of the Columbia Publishing Course, was on the other side of the line to congratulate Torok on being accepted. “I was quite literally speechless and continued thanking [Areheart], even though my voice was cracking as I was on the verge of bursting out in tears,” Torok remembers. After that she ran back into the office, since she took the call in the hallway behind McPhail’s, and told Kerry Torpey ’20, last year’s editor-in-chief, the good news. The rest of The Cowl office was there to celebrate with Torok following Torpey’s larger announcement of the acceptance.
Storytelling is “why I was an English major; and why I joined The Cowl: to help tell stories, whether they were out of Providence College or the Providence community.”
However, Torok’s publishing journey began before the Columbia course. She saw publishing “as a job” in her sophomore year when The Cowl’s then editor-in-chief, Marla Gagne ’18, mentioned that she was accepted into the same program. Then in Torok’s junior year (fall 2018), she received the coveted opportunity to intern in the Children’s Marketing and Publicity department at Simon & Schuster UK through her Boston University study abroad program. This experience exposed Torok to the inner workings of a major publishing house. One of her tasks was mailing out advanced reader’s copies to social media influencers and tastemakers or other people who Simon & Schuster believed could “get a little buzz going about the book.” Torok also created content for social media, supported in-house author events, and developed a week-long blog tour for a major frontlist title.
The next year, Torok dove into another critical aspect of the publishing industry: literary agencies. In the publishing process, representation by a literary agent is often the first step to getting traditionally published. Through her internship at McIntosh & Otis, Torok was the “first eyes” on a manuscript, mostly middle grade and young adult, since her position was focused, again, on working with the children’s department. “I would read through the slush,” which was her main task, and Torok elaborated that if anything caught her eye, she would pass it on to her manager, an assistant to a literary agent.
These experiences and her genuine love of stories led her to the Columbia Publishing Course, a direction to go in after graduation. Formerly known as the Radcliffe Publishing Course, this program has two locations: one in New York City and one at Oxford University in the UK. CPC covers a wide breadth, from book publishing to digital and magazine publishing through lectures, seminars, and workshops over a period of six weeks. Alumni of the course brought their stories and expertise through engaging panels. In the publishing industry, Torok emphasizes, there are often “a lot of unanswered questions, so [CPC] tried to be as transparent and supportive as possible” and encouraged students to make the most of this unique program.
Although Torok participated in the course remotely—the first time CPC was conducted this way—Columbia was still an incredibly valuable experience. An undeniable difference, however, was seen in the way networking happened. Usually this was integrated in all aspects of the course, since students typically live in Columbia’s on-campus housing with five or six other roommates who are also in the program. There were traditional networking opportunities available, such as natural face-to-face conversations and casual encounters during happy hour. This shift is “something the entire world has been faced with, but especially the class of 2020 and 2021.” Networking virtually poses new challenges, as Torok considers, “how do I come across politely over email; how do I keep in contact with them; how do I find that balance that is so critical?”
When asked about her takeaways from the CPC, Torok immediately answered: “the network.” She added, “At the end of the day, as big of an industry publishing is, it is so small at the same time, you can probably find most connections through one or two degrees of separation.” Torok’s newfound Columbia network “provided a really incredible support system outside of [her] Providence College one,” which is composed of Megan Manning ’18, a sales manager at Simon & Schuster, and Marla Gagne ’18, a marketing coordinator at W.W. Norton.
Torok also realized that “it’s okay to be interested in only one or two parts of publishing,” citing that she “learned quickly that if you think you’re passionate about something, there’s most likely someone else who is 30 times more passionate about it than you.” When the Columbia program began, Torok thought she might go into children’s marketing and publicity, since she had internship experience related to it. However, she remembers a moment during a group project when they were a children’s publishing house: “Immediately my group is talking about a book that went on sale a week ago. They already read it,” Torok laughs. It was then that she had a realization: “I don’t think I’m cut out for this side of the industry.”
Torok’s last takeaway is “figuring out what works best with your personality and being honest about yourself.” Just like with her original aspirations to go down the children’s publishing route, she had to be “honest” with herself and give, in her case, sales a “chance.”
Torok was first introduced to sales through Manning when they connected at a NYC PC networking night in December 2019. However, Torok became serious about sales after listening to a panel at CPC where she witnessed a younger alumnus briefly pitch a book. “That was the coolest thing to me,” Torok said, eyes dancing. “You can just pitch people a book in seconds and soon after they’re saying, ‘Oh my God, I have to read this now.’”
Eventually, Torok found her “sweet spot” in sales. “I was passionate about sales, which not everyone was interested in at Columbia.” Through her job, she interacts with both her client publishers and the book buyers at wholesale clubs. Torok also “want[ed] to be talking and collaborating with people across a wide team,” which she definitely gets to do in her sales position.
“On The Cowl we told both the smallest stories and the biggest world news stories, and that’s exactly what we do in publishing.”
Torok’s dedication to books and her job is obvious, which led to my question, “What makes you excited to get up and start working?” The answer comes easily: “I love our books.” Since Torok’s team manages a diverse range of books from Stephen King to keto cookbooks to the No. 1 NYT Bestseller, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, they “work with every type of book.” She adds, “The fact that I get to touch so many different books is refreshing.” On top of that, Torok enjoys the challenges, such as “trying to figure out how to get certain books into Costco without having too many returns,” Costco being a place that shoppers do not usually go to buy books. She also emphasizes that “we are a division of PRH that won’t stop growing,” which is exciting in its own right.
Furthermore, Torok’s team and their support makes it easy to start working every day. She points “100 percent” to her experience with The Cowl for “understanding and developing a support system.” The Cowl and her current team both “create an environment where communication flows” and mutual learning occurs, giving a foundation of transparency. In both teams, everyone “can be honest and upfront, and have fun.”
Torok draws another connection between the two: “On The Cowl we told both the smallest stories and the biggest world news stories, and that’s exactly what we do in publishing.”
An interview with a publishing professional is not complete without a few book recommendations. Recent books Torok loved are Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid and The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Others she recommends from her client publishers are The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, a mystery set in Burma; They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, a graphic novel memoir about Takei’s experience in the Japanese internment camps during World War II; and Juliet the Maniac by Juliet Escoria. Torok received the latter title when she officially began working for Penguin Random House. When new employees came into the office—before COVID-19—there was usually a stack of book recommendations waiting for them on their desks from others. However, because of the pandemic, this was not possible for Torok, but each of her team members hand-selected a book for her. A week before she started, this mystery box of books was delivered to Torok’s front door.
At the end of the interview, Torok emphasized there is no “one way” of breaking into the publishing industry; every professional you speak to will have a different route and story of how they got to be where they are. Torok’s advice for those interested in publishing, however, is relatively simple: “Get your hands on books, magazines, text, or storytelling in any way that you can.”
Nick Sailor ’17: Soccer, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Former Soccer Player Returns to Campus
by Jack Belanger ’21
Nick Sailor ’17 can be associated with a lot of firsts since stepping onto campus back in 2013. He was the first male student to graduate as a women’s studies major, co-founded the Black Chalk Corps Council within Teach for America down in Baltimore, and was named Providence College’s first director of training and education for diversity, equity, and inclusion back in October, a new position created by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the athletics department to help promote these ideals within athletics but across campus.
And ironically, had another school not been recruiting him to play soccer, Sailor may not have found the College at all.
Sailor and his father came to Providence to meet with a coach who worked at a different school within the city. The two arrived early and Sailor’s father suggested they visit PC to kill some time. Immediately, Sailor fell in love with the campus, though it was not until later in his recruitment process that he got the chance to consider PC.
“As the [recruiting] process got going they reached out to me, because they were interested in me as a soccer player,” Sailor said. “And I told them ‘I actually really liked this school from a while ago.’ It all came together where I fell in love with the school first then the soccer part came second.”
For the next four years, Sailor showed what it meant to be true student-athlete, finding great success on and off the field. He played four seasons for the men’s soccer team and was named co-captain during his senior year. While he only scored three goals in his career, it was the last one that came at one of the most important moments in the program’s history. It was the second round of the NCAA tournament against the undefeated University of Maryland where the Friars found themselves down 2-4 with just over 20 minutes left in the game.
After the Friars forced a turnover and went on the attack, Sailor found himself with the ball outside the box and ripped a shot from the right that was just out of the Terrapin goalie’s reach. The goal closed the gap 4-3 and helped fuel the Friars’ comeback. They eventually upset Maryland 5-4. Sailor admitted that it was not until after the game was won that he was able to appreciate the goal.
“If I took a second to think about how crazy the goal was, I think I would have been out of order,” Sailor explained. “So, all I was thinking was, ‘This can’t be my last game,’ and I was focused on what I could do next to keep things going.”
While Sailor played on some successful teams, what he took away most from his time on the team was the brotherhood they built and connections he continues to keep with former teammates and former coaches.
For as much of an impact he made on the field, Sailor made just as much of one off of it. He served as the President of Student-Athlete Advisory Council, a Friar Foundation mentor, and sang with the Footprints Gospel Choir. Rather than focusing his studies in one area, Sailor double-majored in sociology and women’s studies, while also minoring in black studies, fitting for someone who has spent his time after graduating focused on empowering others and striving for inclusivity everywhere he goes.
Upon graduation, Sailor joined Teach for America and moved to Baltimore, where he became a special education math teacher at Walter P. Carter Elementary & Middle School. Not only did he help shape young students, Sailor worked on supporting black educators in the Baltimore area.
“It was a good time for me to be there after graduating. It was good to go to a new place and while it was challenging at times, I was surrounded by many talented young black entrepreneurs and learned from them to grow as a young professional.”
In Baltimore, Sailor helped co-found the Black Chalk Corps Council, a group within the Baltimore corps that strived not only to help empower black educators within the classroom but also outside in the community. He pointed out that data shows that black educators go through challenges on a day-to-day basis that other groups do not experience, such as having to be a disciplinarian. Sailor stressed that it is important to support black educators since they only make up 10 percent of all educators, yet they have a great value in public schools.
“The Council gave us the support to help black teachers flourish which, in turn, allows for our students to flourish. And overall that was our goal: to see our students be successful.”
After two years in Baltimore, Sailor received a call from PC about a new position that focused on diversity in athletics. It seemed like a perfect fit for him after showing passion in promoting diversity during his time in school. Eventually it was announced on Oct. 25 that Sailor would become the College’s first-ever director of training and education for diversity, equity and inclusion, a position that is not very common in colleges across the country.
Since it is such a new position, Sailor says most of his day-to-day work involves what he calls “infrastructure building.” Not only does he plan for what the next year will look like, but also set the stage for the position years down the road. While having no predecessor has its challenges, Sailor enjoys how much freedom he has to shape the job to fit the needs and culture of PC.
One of his biggest goals in his new role is to push the value of student-athletes’ mental health, something that he brought up during his time as a student-athlete. He also wants to connect with the entire athletic department and push the ideals he has been promoting since day one.
“For me, I want to bring the value of inclusion, diversity, and equity and show how it can be valuable to the different facets of the athletic department.”
One of the initiatives Sailor has already created is called “Wisdom Over Waffles.” The monthly event gathers the athletic staff into one room to discuss topics of diversity and inclusion in how it relates to sports over chicken and waffles. Sailor is focused on creating consistent events that continue the conversation of diversity rather than just one-time events such as bringing in speakers. He has given presentations to different teams while trying to connect to students as much as he can.
Looking back on his time as a student, Sailor believed the two things that have helped shape his career has been discipline and commitment. When it came to teaching, he believed in the idea of being a light for others and doing everything he had to support students.
“No one had to convince me to work hard. No one had to convince me to get up early and prepare. I knew if I had the passion in something, I could give it everything I had.”
This drive and passion that has led Sailor to create change everywhere he has gone. He has been given the tools to have an influential impact at PC for years to come.
PC Alumni Shed Light on Careers
AMA and SBO Bring Members of Sports Industry to Talk to Students
by Joseph Quirk ’23
This past Wednesday, February 19 the Providence College American Marketing Association and the Providence College Sports Business Organization hosted a sports marketing panel featuring three PC alumni who have had remarkable success in the sports marketing field. The panel consisted of Matt Ryter ’07, an NFL Account Executive; Molly Giudice ’18, the New York Giants Suites and Premium Service Director; and Mike Hill ’07, the Mediahub Global Vice President and Group Director. The event ran for 45 minutes and began with an introduction of the panel, followed by a guided interview by a head speaker. Following the conclusion of the interview, the panel was opened to audience questions.
One of the first things the panel discussed was how they got to where they are right now. “Well, I’d say that everyone in this room is already very far ahead of where I was at this age,” joked Ryter. This was a common theme throughout the entire panel. All three guests stressed creating connections through networking and then aggressively following up with them.
Ryter talked about how he got his first job working for ESPN at a career fair in Gillette Stadium. After spending some time working for ESPN, Ryter used what he learned in a radio advertising class he took here at PC and took a media and advertising job with CBS. Networking led him to his NFL position today. His position entails many responsibilities, including negotiating sponsorship deals for the league.
Guidice met an executive for the Philadelphia 76ers on a trip and “badgered” him until she got an interview. She made calls for the 76ers and then used her experience working in ticketing to get an analytics internship with the Knicks and Rangers at Madison Square Garden. After realizing that was not for her, she took a job again with the Knicks and Rangers in ticketing. It was during this time she realized she wanted to work in service. She had options to do this with the Rangers and Giants, and she chose the Giants. Guidice has many responsibilities including managing premium partnerships, suites, and important events.
Hill works with clients who are purchasing sports sponsorships. He started by sending a ton of emails to different agencies, awhich is how he got an internship. He worked hard and was persistent and covered a wide area of internships. This allowed him to explore what he wanted to do and diversify his skillset and resume. He believes that this is very important. He got a marketing job right out of college, which he did not like, and this led to him bouncing around jobs before getting a low-level position in his agency and working his way up. He is working with Ryter now, as Ryter is trying to get Hill’s clients to sponsor the NFL.
The next segment was dedicated to any advice the alumni had for students trying to break into the sports marketing field. Hill followed his introduction with some good advice, saying, “Once you build up that foundation, you need to be persistent.” This was in reference to the competitiveness of the sports business field.
He continued: “Don’t be discouraged if it’s not working out because it is a competitive industry. If you are just persistent and network, you will find the job right for you.” He also mentioned the career fair, which is supported by his networking advice, as well as being informed on the responsibilities of these jobs, and being connected on platforms such as LinkedIn. Hill also wanted people to find what they want to do and understand what career path they want to follow.
“When you’re a freshman in college, you don’t really know what you want to do. You’re winding it down until you’re a senior,” he said. “When you’re first out of college, you’re a freshman in your career, you may not know what you want to do and that’s okay.”
These sentiments were echoed by the other two panelists. “Be the best at what you are doing now,” Guidice added. “If you want to get into sports, get your entry level job and be the best you can at it and the rest will fall into place.”
Hill advised students to keep an open mind, saying, “Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into one company or career path.”
The panelists provided more valuable advice when asked how students can start getting involved in the sports industry. One suggested website was Teamwork Online. Every team and league post their jobs and internships on that website. They also encouraged not staying in one city for these experiences but being willing to try new places. Ryter suggested internships at sports marketing agencies.
Guidice suggested that working for bad sports teams may be more valuable as well because you are expected to have more responsibility. “When I worked for the Sixers, and they sucked, you get to learn a lot about how to handle more. It’s very easy to work for a team that’s great.” All three panelists encouraged students to follow a passion and interest and let the sports aspect come to them.
When asked about how PC readied them for the sports field, Guidice said that you do not need sports marketing degrees to get these jobs. Everyone has these degrees, and teams may look for people with something else so they can contribute more unique opinions or skills. She also says a liberal arts background is invaluable in offering versatility to companies.
The final 10 minutes of the panel allowed for student questions. These questions varied on the topic of general interest in the industry itself. One question that led to a discussion is how the new forms of media and different ways to consume live games will affect the price and frequency of sponsorships and ads.
Overall, the entire panel was insightful and entertaining for the students. After the event was over, audience members had a chance to meet and network with the three alumni and grab a slice of pizza.