The NBA HBCU Fellowship Program launched this year to provide career development opportunities in the business of basketball

The NBA HBCU Fellowship Program launched this year to provide career development opportunities in the business of basketball for undergraduate and graduate students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This summer, Cierra Carter from Tennessee State University joined Suns Legacy Partners to experience the behind-the-scenes efforts of the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury and Footprint Center. She worked in various departments for ten weeks, including human resources, ticket sales, corporate partnerships, legal, social responsibility and marketing. Learn more about her experience as she reflects on her time as a fellow during the summer of 2022.

How did you first learn about the NBA HBCU Fellowship?

I’m pretty involved on campus back at Tennessee State University and heard about is as a member of a business fraternity. Alums of the group will often post about career or internship opportunities, and I saw the link to the NBA/HBCU Fellowship circulating quite a few times. And I thought to myself, “Come on, Cierra, HBCU, NBA, this is for you; why not apply and see what happens.” This was in January of 2022, and I just had this feeling it was for me and I am grateful I received the opportunity. 

How was your internship experience as a whole?

My internship experience went really well, I enjoyed shadowing the various departments. I explored different teams, learning their roles and how they integrate. Seeing the faces and stories come together behind the scenes to bring the brand story to life was one of my favorite parts.

Also, the opportunity to connect with others was special; talking with people in the halls or at meetings, the relationships, the experience and the communication made this internship great.

Describe what roles and responsibilities you had throughout your 10-week internship.

Throughout the summer, I had three main projects I was working on. A career fair, a new intranet or internal communications and recruitment within human resources. My day-to-day varied but I’d often be found reviewing applications, developing strategies to help employees stay connected, figuring out the current systems in place to tweak and maximize them. A lot of curiosity was required in this role because I didn’t know much. Coming in I wanted to make sure I was asking all the right questions.

What was it like to be a part of the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury and Footprint Center?

It’s honestly a hard feeling to describe, but if I had to, it would be an overwhelming amount of gratitude. One of the moments I felt the most appreciation for was the BG Shoe Drive. In the early spring when I was applying for the Fellowship, the BG news had just come out. Coming here and being able to have an impact and seeing how everyone was working toward one cause, one effort was amazing. Gratifying and overwhelming to be a part of that this summer. I’m in awe seeing how everything works within this organization. The synergy was apparent as well. When I first arrived, in my first conversations with staff they mentioned the chemistry between their teams and other departments. 

What was your favorite memory/accomplishment?

The relationships I created and the people who continued to put in my ear, “you deserve to be here.” Programs like this are important because access and opportunity are essential. The route that has been created for this HBCU Fellowship is important and I hope it will keep building. The career fair was one a top moment for me. I had a woman who attended whose flight had landed the same day. For me to see that I’m putting out content and helping people who want to work for this organization is incredible.

How do you feel this experience has impacted your future?

It’s helped me feel more prepared. Going in I was unsure what this opportunity would offer but went in open to receiving anything I could. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and allowed myself to progress through the past ten weeks. I learned ways that I could bring pieces of myself into this environment and I’m hopeful I found ways to leave an impact in HR, in the office and in culture.

If you could go back and give yourself words of encouragement before embarking on this experience, what would you say? Any closing comments for future interns?

Initially, I had a bit of anxiety and asked myself if I really belonged, so I would tell myself to be bold and to be brave. I’d tell myself to keep going. That no two journeys look the same, keep finding ways to maximize your time, and highlight your values and the things that matter most. I think that is where the culture is and that is what makes the Suns/Mercury culture so great is it is all these different people, their stories and opportunities together.

I would tell future applicants to remain true to themselves, prioritize the relationships you make and pursue insightful conversations. I’d tell the next fellow after me to enjoy their time here; there are many things you can gain here. This organization is up to a lot of exciting things and to be in this premier talent space is a dream and an incredible opportunity.