An internship takes Pireu from basketball into the world of football

ASHLAND, Ohio -- Around the Ashland University campus, Karlee Pireu might be best known for her basketball skills, but this summer, she was all about football.

Pireu, a 2017 graduate of Perry High School in Massillon, completed her third internship at the Hall of Fame Village, a division of the Hall of Fame Resort and Entertainment Co. and the developers of property adjacent to the nonprofit Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. Hall of Fame Village’s end goal is to create an integrated destination resort, capitalizing on Canton’s reputation as the birthplace of professional football and the home of the Hall of Fame that honors the game’s legends, both old and new.

Pireu worked in human resources there and has returned to the Ashland campus to work toward a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in human resources.

It was not, she said, the path she initially saw herself taking.

When she first chose Ashland, Pireu said, she was driven not only by the opportunity to play basketball, but also “because of the campus size and I knew I would grow in my faith.”

As for a major, she said, she hadn’t a clue. Undecided for the first year and a half she completed, Pireu eventually found she liked business and communications and set her sights on a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in marketing and a minor in sports management. “It seemed,” she said, “the best fit for me and also where my skill set aligned.”

So, not surprisingly, Pireu’s first internship was with LRT Sports, a company with a database of college coach rankings and resources for athletes and their families to better understand college athletics. Then came an opportunity to intern with the J.M. Smucker Co., learning more about marketing through an experience with sales and national accounts.

And, out of nowhere, came COVID-19.

“My entire internship with Smucker’s was remote,” Pireu said. But still, she learned some valuable lessons, like “how popular people skills are,” she said, “as well as tech skills.” Most importantly, it changed how she saw her career plans. Although the Smucker internship was in marketing, Pireu also got a glimpse of the human resources arena. “I realized what talent acquisition means for a company,” she said.

And, Pireu added, she found it was really where she wanted to be, which brings us back to her internship with Hall of Fame Village.

Her summer work sealed it for Pireu. She found a lot of human resources work involved daily tasks – checking references, scheduling interviews, onboarding new hires – that she really enjoyed. Also, she said, “It’s the connection and communication you have with every person in the company.”

So, did she have any contact with the enshrinees during the annual HOF festivities in August? Well, no, but the Hall of Fame Village hosted its own events, which suited Pireu just fine. In the end, “It was an unbelievable, unbelievable experience,” she said. “The hands-on experience helped me to grow personally and professionally.”

But as summer winded down, Pireu faced a tough decision. She really wanted to get her career started and hoped maybe she could stay on with Hall of Fame Village or at least start to get her name out there through LinkedIn and career fairs.

This time, COVID played an indirect role in her decision making.

Because of the pandemic and the ensuing shutdowns, the NCAA offered student-athletes an extra year of eligibility. Once she decided on one more season on the court, Pireu had to decide what to do academically since she’d already finished her undergraduate degree.

“I had always wanted to get a master’s degree, just not right away,” Pireu said. But with the confluence of events that started with a pandemic, she decided the time for graduate studies was now. So, she enrolled in AU’s MBA program, with an emphasis on Human Resources Management.

It took lots of twists and turns, but Pireu’s future now has come into focus, thanks –a bit –to COVID.

Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.eduvalues the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.###