DeJonge continues love of sports while seeking communications degree

NILES — Ashley DeJonge has always enjoyed sports. So, it came as no surprise that while attending St. Mary’s College, she started working with the University of Notre Dame Athletic Department.

The 2013 Brandywine graduate is continuing that love of sports as an intern at Loyola University in Chicago, where she is a graduate student pursuing a degree in communications.

While at St. Mary’s, DeJonge received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing. Because St. Mary’s and Notre Dame are intertwined, she became a student equipment manager for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team.

Those experiences at both St. Mary’s and Notre Dame are some of the best times of her life, she said.

“I got the opportunity to participate in student life at Notre Dame,” DeJonge said. “I got to sit in the student section at football games and basketball games. I got to take classes

at Notre Dame. It was a really great all-around experience. With that, I was a student equipment manager for the football team for all four years,”

Being part of the equipment staff works in a tier system, according to DeJonge.

“You come out as a freshman just showing interest,” she said. “I want to say my class had close to 100 freshmen interested in the program. So, you come out and you work whatever practices you are assigned you. You are basically shadowing a current sophomore or junior manager. Right before the spring game, about 14 of us were selected to be sophomore managers. We worked the fall and spring seasons. After the Blue and Gold Game that spring, then seven of us were selected to move on for our junior year.”

Once you get to that level, DeJonge said managers are given the opportunity to travel.

“After the fall season, three of us are selected as senior managers to continue on to work the spring season of our junior year and all of our senior year,” she said. “We are now the head student-managers working 40 to 50 hours a week. Traveling with the team was my full-time job while I was still in school taking 18 credit hours.”

DeJonge loved every minute of it.

“It was a pretty incredible experience,” she said. “Getting to see behind the scenes, and for me wanting to work in the sports industry, and seeing how that all came together. Even though my degree was in marketing, it still was a really great eye-opener for me and a great learning experience to get that kind of under my belt and get my feet wet in the sports industry and to make all these great incredible connections to go onto my career.”

Among the games that will stick out in DeJonge’s memory is the trip to Michigan State her senior year.

“Probably because I was in my home state with what is now my home team,” she said. “That was the first game I was a ball girl, so I am running up and down the sidelines with the team and the referees. I actually got taken out by a Michigan State player on the sidelines when he made a tackle. He tackled me too. You can actually go back and watch that on television.”

Another game that will always stick out was the Citrus Bowl game when the Fighting Irish played LSU on New Year’s Day. She also got to travel to the Notre Dame Bowl game her sophomore year, which does not usually happen.

“That was incredible for me to get to stay and help,” DeJonge said. “We traveled to Arizona to play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. It was not the outcome we wanted, but it was still an incredible experience for me.”

After graduating from St. Mary’s in 2018, DeJonge was a manager at Dietz Sports & Entertainment for nine months in Farmington Hills before taking a job close to home. She worked as the social media manager at Alpha Dogg Agency before becoming the marketing coordinator at the YMCA of Greater Michiana, a position she held until May of this year.

Deciding to return to school, DeJonge selected Loyola.

“I had my eye out for grad schools and just looking at different opportunities because I have been wanting to go back to school since I was in school,” she said. “I knew I wanted to go and work before I went to grad school, which I am glad I did, because if I had gone to grad school right after undergrad, I would not be studying what I am now. Because of everything I went through the past two years, I was able to find my passion and niche in what I want to do.”

The search began in February. Loyola was not even on DeJonge’s radar until her mom sent her Loyola’s program.

“I read the course description and about the opportunities I would have, and I fell in love with the program,” DeJonge said. “I have not looked back since.”

The internship will allow DeJonge to work with student programs and student engagement to help draw them to sporting events.