University of Northwestern – St. Paul welcomed four new full-time faculty in 2020—three of whom are Northwestern alumni. We’re pleased to offer a glimpse into each of these talented individuals over the next few weeks, beginning with Brad Ruiter ’90, professor of Sports Management and Chair of the Department of Physical Education, Health & Kinesiology.
Brad Ruiter, a 1990 alumnus of Northwestern, brings a wealth of experience in sports management to UNW, having worked in media relations with the University of Minnesota Gophers, in communications with the Minnesota Twins, and as an independent Media Consultant providing freelance statistical work for the Minnesota State High School League, FSN North, ESPN, Fox Sports, ABC, TBS, CBS, and NBC.
Most recently, Ruiter served as the Vice President for Communications for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx.
Tell us about your journey to your present work.
My first job after graduation wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was working full time at a sports retail apparel in downtown Minneapolis and at the Shoreview YMCA part time. I decided to go back for graduate classes at the University of Minnesota, and at the end of a sports law class, the professor said, “There’s an unpaid internship in the sports information department.” I had zero experience, but I called the contact person, interviewed, and was hired.
I worked in the U of M athletic department as a graduate assistant for a year without getting paid. The second year I was offered $500 a month. I was at a crossroads, wondering if I should go home or work at YMCA. That March, one of the full-time people in our department left and I was hired to take their place.
I got my foot in the door, worked hard, and was in the right place at the right time.
What led you to your current role at Northwestern?
I am an alum of UNW, and had the honor of being asked back to campus to be a guest speaker for a lot of UNW courses. Dr. Kristine Smith, previous chair of the Department of Physical Education, Health, and Kinesiology, was one of my professors. She asked me to help with an assessment of the program. I believe that in time that lit a match in terms of considering if I might be interested in this position when it opened. It seemed like the right fit and the right time to come back to my alma mater.
What is your favorite part about teaching/Christian higher education?
My favorite part of my role is getting to know and work with the students. In my different roles in corporate work over the years, I had a lot of kids reach out to me about getting started in the industry. Now I get to look at it from their side of things. It’s fun to be on the front end rather than on back end.
I also like being around other Christians every day, praying to open class, and putting the focus on developing the spiritual part of the students’ walk and journey.
What part of the curriculum you teach interests or excites you most?
I love teaching the sports management courses we’ve started to implement. That’s part of my longer-term mission and goal: to develop classes within that track. We’ve added three sports management-related classes in the last year. I’ve been teaching one class this fall semester and will teach another one in spring that hasn’t been offered at UNW before.
Sports management is in my alley of expertise and experience. I’m able to draw personal experiences from my work in the sports industry as I teach. I am also able to bring in top-notch guest speakers for the students to connect with and network with—people well-known in the industry.
I really love what I do here, and our numbers in the new classes are strong. There are over 20 students in the new sports marketing class. That fuels my passion to continuing to build the program.
What piece of advice you would give to incoming freshmen?
It’s okay to not know exactly what to do with your life; you have time to figure that out. Many freshmen are stressed out and don’t need to be. Many students change majors while they’re here. Just come and be part of the UNW community until you figure it out. We want you here!
What advice you would give to graduating seniors?
Seniors, sometimes the path to where you want to be 20 years from now doesn’t feel like the right path. Work hard, seek God, be humble, don’t expect too much too soon, and you’ll most likely get there. We live in a microwave society and people often want things before they’ve earned them. I encourage you to be patient, slow down, and take life in little bits and increments. Trust your parents! And trust in God.
What book have you read recently that you’d recommend to the UNW community?
I’m a big news consumer, so most of what I’ve been reading is news.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
We have a lake place in western Minnesota close to where I grew up. I go there with my family to relax, unplug, unwind. I’m also been super involved in coaching my kids’ youth sports teams.
What is your favorite place on campus?
The Ericksen Center—a lot of things I need are in Ericksen—and the campus green. Even in the winter, there is a sense of calm and togetherness in the quad between Totino and the Billy Graham Center. I feel God’s presence when I walk through there.
Actually, the campus itself is why as a 17-year-old I wanted to come to Northwestern. I grew up in a rural town and wanted to go to school in the city. UNW is near the city, but it felt like being in a small town.
What is one thing about Northwestern that you’d like people to know?
How truly impressed I am with how we have handled and prepared for COVID as a campus. In early summer, people assumed colleges wouldn’t be back on campuses in the fall. I’m extremely impressed with our leadership—that we forged ahead, and I’m so impressed with all the work that went into being where we are today. There’s so much credit that needs to be given to so many people. Our COVID cases are low, and I have confidence we can get through the school year with students still on campus. The students are the reason we’re doing it.