Softball Urban Knights Interning With Oakland Raiders, NFL

Oakland Coliseum - Oakland Raiders (photo by Andrea Gill) Coliseum. Photo by Andrea Gill.

Continuing a tradition of artist-athletes working for professional sports organizations, Academy of Art University softball artist-athletes Haily MacDonald, Jasmine Dickenson and Andrea Gill have embraced the once in a lifetime opportunity for the National Football League and the Oakland Raiders this season. MacDonald, a graphic design major, is currently involved with the NFL Player Participations Crew for the Raiders, while Dickenson and Gill, both photography majors, have been serving as photography interns for the Raiders since August.

“Having three ART U softball players interning with the NFL and Raiders is a testament to the Academy of Art University,” said head coach Sonja Garnett. “The networking opportunities and level of education at the Academy continue to amaze me. Each of these three athletes possesses a work ethic, talent and dedication to their art that positioned them for this opportunity. I am so proud of what they have given to our program and how they continue to represent our school.”

MacDonald, the 2015 ARTYs Urban Knight of the Year and NFCA All-West Region Team honoree as a senior this past spring, immediately built upon an impressive artist-athlete resume with a graphic design internship for the Raiders during the summer. Guided by Creative Director Esteban Carbajal and Creative Services Manager Caitlin Wienck in the Raiders’ Business Development Department, MacDonald worked on a variety of graphical projects. She handled t-shirt designs, logos, email designs, material for the Raiderettes and other content for preseason and regular season game days.

Haily MacDonald (photo by Jasmine Dickenson)

Haily MacDonald. Photo by Jasmine Dickenson.

Andrea Gill (photo by Jasmine Dickenson)

Andrea Gill. Photo by Jasmine Dickenson.

After demonstrating dedicated work ethic and establishing strong connections, MacDonald then took the initiative to fill a position as a photographer for Player Participations in the NFL Game Operations Department. She joined Crew Chief Adam Sanda and three other individuals, who collectively identify each player in every formation on game days. MacDonald, who had not attended a NFL game prior to this opportunity, now has her Sundays constantly booked to fulfill a role critical to league statisticians.

“School and softball have taught me so many lessons that I will use for the rest of my life,” said MacDonald. “Working for the NFL and the Raiders has been a great experience for me and I think everything I learned as an ART U softball student-athlete helped prepare me in one way or another; from time management and communication to being able to work as part of a team. The first NFL game I worked, I was super nervous and didn’t want to mess up, but I just told myself to be confident and would get the hang of it. Sports will always be a part of my life in one way or another, whether it’s working, playing, or watching.”

As multi-year Academic All-PacWest recipients like MacDonald, both Dickenson and Gill stood out in the Academy’s School of Photography, leading to their chance at becoming interns for the Raiders.

LtoR Jasmine Dickenson & Andrea Gill working for Oakland Raiders (no photo credit)

Jasmine Dickenson and Andrea Gill.

Haily MacDonald - NFL Player Participations (no photo credit)

Haily MacDonald - NFL Player Participations.

ograph fans entering the stadium, players warming up and other pregame festivities as the atmosphere continues to build. Following kickoff, the focus is on genuine fan interactions with one another, special moments and artistic shots of the Coliseum itself. When the game has finished, photographers then submit a minimum of 10 images for each phase as outlined by Raiders Creative Director Esteban Carbajal.

“From an academic standpoint, this past summer was a great experience,” said Gill. “Between landing this opportunity and getting my start in the editorial, advertising and film industries as a photo/production assistant, it really helped me to re-prioritize and focus on what is ultimately important with graduation and the real world approaching this May. Being an artist-athlete has helped me both on set and at the stadium by having shaped the work ethic I hold today.”

Besides also being in good shape to make constant laps around the stadium as well as up and down stairs, Dickenson attributes much of her success with this internship to four years living the life of an artist-athlete.

Oakland Coliseum - Oakland Raiders (photo by Jasmine Dickenson) Coliseum. Photo by Jasmine Dickenson.

“This opportunity is something that we can use for our portfolio and to get exposure,” said Dickenson. “Constantly looking for the right composition, lighting and moment is something that I’ve learned while attending Academy of Art University. And having played a sport has been beneficial as well because we have the mindset of an athlete. Having deadlines and guidelines to follow but still with creative control for the images is always nice, especially when we’re told that a lot of creative directors will hire you for your uniqueness and creativity.”

These special opportunities to work for the NFL are becoming more frequent for the Urban Knights as this softball trio follows in the footsteps of track & field’s Hannah Otey (NFL Network) and volleyball’s Kanoe Irvine (Oakland Raiders, NFL Network), volleyball’s Meg Williams (Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers) and softball’s Kimberly Dauer and women’s golfer Melissa Genao (both Oakland Raiders).