UF Dual-Degree Alumna Professionally Combines Sports With Event Management Career

Student Stories - Kalena Miles: THEM and Sport Management Major

Kalena Miles started her college path at the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus. Originally starting as a tourism, hospitality, and event management major, she transitioned to UF Online to merge her passion for sports with event management by pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in sport management after realizing she could build a career within professional sports focusing on event management. Since earning her degrees in December of 2022, Kalena has completed event management internships with renowned professional sports organizations like the Miami Heat and the Detroit Lions.

“I’ve always had a passion for event planning and figuring out what goes on behind the scenes. What does it take to make an event successful? There’s just so many aspects of major events.”


Declaring a major is an important decision faced by incoming college students, and Kalena’s journey underscores the significance of finding the right fit. Initially enrolled as a business major, Kalena became interested in event management after taking a course with Dr. Annamarie Sisson. “I started by pursuing a business degree, but I didn’t have enough classes to fill my schedule. Professor Sisson was so great and amazing. I really fell in love with the course and I decided to change my major because of her class,” said Kalena on switching majors from business to tourism, hospitality, and event management.

Event management complemented many of Kalena’s personal interests. “I’m a very detail-oriented person. I like to plan out vacations, so it just kind of fits together,” Kalena said. “I still wasn’t sure on exactly what kind of events I’d want to plan and be a part of, but I loved sports. It didn’t really click with me that sporting events needed to be highly organized, along with the large concerts that arenas and stadiums host. That’s when I decided to get the sport management degree to add to my background.”

In addition to discovering new areas of study at UF, Kalena was able to learn in different modalities, including online courses and education programs like UF Online. “I was in-person for about the first year and a half. I was just about to finish up when COVID hit and all classes went online anyway. That was what sparked my interest in online classes. I figured, I’m doing it now, and it’s feasible and flexible. That’s when I decided to transition to the fully-online program via UF Online,” she said.

“It was a long process, but I was dedicated and didn’t give up. I kept putting my name out there. I knew I’d be able to do it, and I just needed to prove it.”

UF Online assigns each student a dedicated academic advisor to guide them through the college experience from start to finish. Kalena explained how her UF Online academic advisor, Paul Higgerson, helped her discover that she could earn both of her degrees most efficiently through UF’s online bachelor’s degree program. “After the pandemic, my eyes were opened to online education really being a feasible option. I started talking to Paul about what my options were and how I could seamlessly transition once I realized that it was an option. Online education gave me the opportunity to go down to Miami and intern with the Miami Heat as I finished my sports management degree through UF Online. Paul was probably the biggest influence. He’s always just been so helpful,” Kalena said.


Kalena’s ambition earned her an internship with the National Basketball Association’s Miami Heat while studying in Gainesville. Recalling her hiring process with the Miami Heat, she shares, “I was looking at the Heat’s career page for an event intern position. I applied and got a phone interview, but I noticed they were hesitant because they saw that I lived in Gainesville. My family is from Wellington, so I didn’t have to worry about finding a place to live in South Florida. I didn’t hear back, so I drove home and went to a Heat game. Prior to the game, I stopped by the command center and personally handed in my resume and asked for it to be passed along to the event manager. I got a message asking for a second interview, which led to a third interview, and eventually getting hired.” Kalena’s second internship was with the National Football League’s Detroit Lions and involved a similar multi-round application and interview process.

No two days are alike for Kalena in her new role. Her specific duties vary by event but all involve hands-on operational and logistical support for large-scale events. Whether it’s assisting an artist’s crew with unloading equipment or placing signage around the venue, every task serves an important purpose. As Kalena explains, “Arena concerts have a quicker load in and load out, so they can host a lot more concerts in a shorter time span. On the stadium side, they’re loading in for about a week. There are semi trucks and a lot more crew. I tag along with the event manager and essentially help them as a right hand. On concert day you’re there from 8 a.m. to sometimes 2 a.m. the next morning just helping out wherever you can.”

“We’ve had 2 Taylor Swift shows, 2 Luke Bryan shows, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran and WWE SummerSlam. This has been the busiest summer they’ve had in a long time, so it was really exciting to be a part of that.”


When reflecting on her educational accomplishments, Kalena took pride in earning her UF degrees. “I’m a first-generation college graduate, so that was a big accomplishment in itself. Doing it against all odds. I qualified for the Florida Bright Futures program, so that paid for 100% of my UF tuition. I also received grants and paid my own way through college. I managed to graduate with no student debt, which is a pretty amazing thing,” said Kalena.

Kalena has some words of encouragement for other students considering earning their degree from an online program. “I loved the flexibility and being able to watch lectures on my own time. If I missed something a professor said, I’d simply rewind. I loved that asynchronous aspect, especially at the end near graduation. There were some odd internship hours and nights where I knew I’d want to sleep in a little more the next day. The flexibility of UF Online allowed for that.”

The University of Florida congratulates Kalena on her educational and professional achievements. Gators like Kalena are why we continue to build on our reputable online bachelor’s degree program offerings, extending the reach of the Gator Nation around the globe.

Join the Gator Nation with our Sport Management and Our Tourism, Hospitality, and Event Management Programs

The UF Online Bachelor of Science in Sport Management program equips students with the tools to apply the fundamental concepts of management, marketing, finance, and law to sports organizations. Students go on to pursue careers in a variety of organizations like professional sport franchises, intercollegiate athletics, sports media, municipal recreation, sports committees, private organizations, social organizations, and amateur sports. Within these organizations, students get involved in a range of job functions such as facility and event management, marketing, administration, compliance, ticket operations, sponsorship sales, fundraising and player representation.

To learn more about the UF Online Sport Management program, visit our sport management degree page.

The UF Online Bachelor of Science in Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management provides students with a well-rounded curriculum preparing them to move into any aspect of service industry management. The tourism industry has a continued need to recruit highly qualified employees to manage teams and create excellent experiences. With an increased demand for professionals in this industry each year, graduates can become leaders, decision-makers, and entrepreneurs in both public and private sectors. This major prepares students with the technical, interpersonal and professional skills that employers are looking for in a competitive candidate.

To learn more about the UF Online Tourism, Hospitality, and Event Management program, visit our tourism, hospitality, and event management degree page.