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Thundered-up for an MBA

The Meinders School of Business put up the challenge, and two contestants were called to leverage their basketball skills into scholarship dollars. Contestants Jose Nava and Miisha Webb entered the Paycom Center floor during two different Oklahoma City Thunder games to shoot free throws to earn scholarship bucks toward their MBA dreams.

The scholarship challenge in front of thousands of screaming fans followed the announcement last year of the Thunder Leadership MBA program in the business school.

Attendees at previous games were invited to enter the contest by either scanning a QR code on their seats or by registering online. The two contestants were randomly selected, with automatic $10,000 scholarships awarded and the chance to add more by making free throws during a Thunder game. Each free throw made resulted in $1,500 added to the scholarship total.

Nava was the first contestant selected. Nava, who teaches Spanish and coaches soccer in Choctaw, was invited to shoot free throws during a game against the Houston Rockets Feb. 15 and nailed 9 of them.

As a natural athlete and public presenter, he said he wasn’t too pressured by the contest or the enthusiastic audience.

“I drew energy from the hype of the crowd,” he said.

Following the contest, Nava said he heard from several friends dating back to his high school days who witnessed his performance.

Through his studies in the Thunder Leadership MBA program, he hopes to gain more leadership skills, network connections with peers and professors, and a better sense of what it’s like to work in the sports industry.

Webb, a first-grade teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Oklahoma City, was the second winning contestant. Webb displayed her free throw skills during a third-quarter timeout in an April 2 game against the Phoenix Suns. Just to add a little more pressure, the game marked the returns of former Thunder heroes Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, so the building was a near sellout.

Webb got on a hot streak late in her allotted minute and finished with eight made free throws, only one shy of her personal goal. Her pre-game practice session paid off with an additional $12,000 added to her initial $10,000 scholarship.

“I had plenty of rebounders,” Webb quipped, describing how her students helped her practice during recess at her school a few days before the game. An especially cold day in late March meant recess would be held in the school gymnasium. A rack of basketballs was rolled out to the free throw line. While Webb was shooting rapid-fire free throws, her 20 students ran around the gym to gather rebounds and return them to the rack.

As the lead first-grade teacher for her school’s faculty, Webb said she wants to expand her leadership skills overall in hopes of advancing her career.

The Oklahoma City Thunder and OCU’s Meinders School of Business partnered to create the Thunder Leadership MBA program in 2022. Formerly known as the Leadership MBA, new tweaks to the curriculum include collaborations with senior leadership from the Thunder, who provide insight into strategic business initiatives and guidance to graduate students. A semester-long project culminates with a presentation to team executives at Paycom Center, the Thunder’s home arena.

The Thunder Leadership MBA program includes opportunities for OCU undergraduate business students to leverage the home game experience as a Thunder practicum, enriching their understanding of business operations. Students participate in a variety of exercises such as event planning, curating guest experiences, understanding marketing analytics, content design and multi-channel distribution.

For more information or to apply, visit okcu.edu/thundermba.

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