A Career in Sport Leads Miami Alum to Find Purpose In Unexpected Places

James M. Loy, Miami University

Many people dream of working in the sport industry.

Sometimes the dream comes true as planned. Other times the original dream becomes a stepping stone that eventually leads to our true place and purpose.

“I never thought I would end up in nonprofit work,” says Morgan Liber ’14. “I'm a big baseball nerd, a big Cleveland Indians fan. My dad put a ball and a mitt in my hand by the time I could walk. So sports were always in my DNA. I played soccer. I played softball. I played all these different sports, and I knew I wanted to work in the industry.”

“I just didn't know how to get there,” she says.

An unexpected journey

Today, Liber serves as the Development Manager for Girls on the Run, an afterschool nonprofit program that combines physical activity with positive youth development for 3rd - 8th-grade girls.

Girls on the Run is where Liber landed long after achieving her original dream of working in Major League Baseball. After an even longer journey that began at Miami University, where she found mentorship and encouragement -- especially, she recalls, from Sam Morris, a Clinical Professor of Sport Leadership and Management (SLAM).

Morgan Liber

“When I started at Miami, Dr. Morris came to me and said, ‘There's a sport leadership and management program, and I think you would be a great fit,’” Liber says. “He always had a very big impact, inside and outside the classroom, always making sure his students were on the right path.”

“Dr. Morris was also one of the most challenging professors I've ever had,” she continues, “but I took all his classes because of how he took real-life events and applied them to class.”

While earning her SLAM degree, which is now offered through a new department at Miami, Liber gained experience in game-day operations, sport event management, marketing, and more. “Anything I could get my hands on within the business side of sport,” she says.

“So when I graduated, I went straight to work for the Tampa Bay Rays. I worked in Major League Baseball for two years doing promotions and marketing. I absolutely loved it. But I'm always hungry and looking to grow.”

After moving on, Liber served as a social media manager for IMG, and then as Development Manager for the IRONMAN Foundation in Florida, where she first gained experience in the world of nonprofit athletics.

“That's where the bug really bit me,” she says. “I traveled all across the nation, to all these different races. I went to almost every race IRONMAN had, working with peer-to-peer fundraising athletes who would race distances to raise money for the foundation. Then, in turn, we would support local communities through community impact projects.”

Liber would spend another two years with IRONMAN before a networking encounter with a past baseball associate would yield another exciting new opportunity.

“Girls on the Run is a grant recipient of the Rays Baseball Foundation,” she explains. “That's where I first met my current boss about six years ago. We reconnected at a community luncheon. It was perfect timing. She approached me saying, ‘We're ready to grow, and I need someone who has the skillset and expertise to take us to the next level. Are you interested?’”

girls on the run

Finding a home with Girls on the Run

As a nation-wide program that supports over 200 local councils, Girls on the Run teaches elementary and middle school girls critical life skills through a research-based curriculum that covers positive self-image, emotional wellness, conflict resolution, confidence building, and leadership.

Along the way, they also train for a celebratory 5K that culminates at the end of the 10-week program.

The goal is to empower young girls to believe in themselves, rather than other harmful cultural messages that often reinforce outdated gender roles, unrealistic body images, and discriminating stereotypes.

As Development Manager, Liber connects this mission to local communities across the greater Tampa Bay area. She also finds financial support and organizes fundraising opportunities to secure scholarships to help girls from at risk families participate.

For those hoping to positively influence the lives of others, it can be an inspiring and rewarding way to make a real difference.

According to an independent study from the University of Minnesota, the program can be transformative in numerous ways. The findings among participants include:

  • 97% continued using the critical life skills they learned in the program at home and school
  • 70% reported increased levels of confidence, competence, character, connection, and caring
  • 40% increased, and continued to maintain, their physical activity after the program ended

 “These are things I wish I was able to learn at their age,” Liber says. “So it’s really cool that I can combine my passion for sport, but also make an impact through sport by giving back to the world that we live in. That's the coolest thing I've learned since getting my degree at Miami. The degree, the major, and everything provided the tools to get me where I am and figure out that this is where I'm meant to be.”