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49ers not only innovators in sport business, but also in educative programs. Interview with Jesse Lovejoy by Arnaud Drijard
49ers, innovators in educative programs. Interview with Jesse Lovejoy
13-06-2019
 
Jeese Lovejoy at Beyond Innovation Summit
Jeese Lovejoy at Beyond Innovation SummitBeyond Innovation Summit

SiS / AD: Jesse, thanks very much for spending time with us. As a start, could you share a bit about yourself?


JL: I was born and raised in Santa Cruz, Calif., then went to San Diego State for university. I studied communications with an emphasis in Public Relations and went to work immediately out of school for a PR firm in San Diego. I worked in PR for nearly 10 years before coming to understand that the work was not central to my passion – serving others and, more specifically, working with children/learners. I began teaching, which I did for a few years, before landing at the San Diego Hall of Champions museum, which exposed me to the opportunity to use sports as a vehicle to educate and empower young people. I found my calling. I moved back home to the Bay Area in 2013 to take the job I have now with the San Francisco 49ers and feel extraordinarily lucky every single day to do what I do.

I have been married to my amazing wife, Stephanie, for eight+ years, and we have one daughter, Vivienne Rose, who is 4. The Lovejoy family also includes Buster (8) and Lucy (7), our two rescue pit bulls, and our daughter’s three fish – Kissy, Wissy, and Tissy. We love to garden, spend time in/near the ocean, dance/sing and generally have as much fun as possible. We believe in the power of kindness, community and giving of ourselves to others.



SiS / AD: How did you end up working for the 49ers and create EDU?


JL: The 49ers decided, upon building Levi’s Stadium, that the organization would double down on its long-standing commitment to serving the educational community in the Bay Area by creating direct-service programming. At the time, the York Family was also building the 49ers Museum, which is the most innovative team-specific sports museum in the United States. To oversee both, they advertised a director of the 49ers Museum position, which I applied for and ultimately won.

In early meetings with Yorks and with the team’s leadership at the time, it became clear that there was a vision here to build something truly special, and we set to work to build it. Over the course of the next 13 months or so, we created one of the most beautiful, engaging and innovative sports museums in the country, and a paradigm-changing sports-based informal education program.



SiS / AD: You have a clear passion for STEAM, let us know more about STEAM and why it is so important?


JL: Ensuring that young people are interested in STEAM, and translate that interest into perseverance in the subjects—and then mastery of them—is crucial for myriad reasons. We need a more prepared and motivated workforce.

We need to cross disciplinary learners and thinkers. We need creative and iterative students.

There is virtually no arena in today’s global community and economy that does not rely on well informed, compassionate and entrepreneurial young people, and STEAM education is absolutely central to that.

Specific to our work, it is imperative to provide opportunities for young people to understand that STEAM is relevant, interesting, and involved in things outside of classrooms and textbooks. Providing context and approachable entry points to learners—especially those that are coming from underserved backgrounds and without as many opportunities for growth and exposure—is a way to reorient kids’ mindset from fixed to growth as it relates to what they think they can learn, what they enjoy and what they can see themselves investing in terms of future courses of study and occupations.

With respect to the quantitative/qualitative measures that clearly outline the need for a focus on STEAM education at every level of a learner’s experience, there are many figures and statistics I could list to make a compelling argument. Instead of doing so, I’ll just point your readers to the U.S. Department of Education’s breakdown of the subject.



SiS/ AD: At the 49ers, how do you leverage the power of American Football to improve STEAM skills?


JL: We wrote a (Common Core & NGSS aligned) curriculum from the ground up for K-8 students that harness many interesting parts of the game of football and our home venue, Levi’s Stadium, to articulate a boatload of concepts that kids find fascinating and compelling.

It would be impossible to list all the things we do here but as a few examples … we teach environmental sustainability through lessons on LEED design and solar energy. We teach physics by understanding how footballs are impacted by forces when they move. We teach math by understanding how measurement is crucial to our game. We teach nutrition by studying key nutrients and how to form proper meals for our players vs. regular citizens. I could go on and on with all the ways we bring STEAM to life here.

The key thing about how we use the game of football and our stadium to create learning opportunities is to focus on the student first.

What will motivate her to learn? What will light a fire for a young person and cause them to sit up, open their eyes and engage? How is what we are doing fun? If you’re not addressing these questions—and then aligning the answers with learning objectives and a rigorous academic approach—you are doing those you are attempting to teach a disservice.



SiS/ AD: Where does the value of your program lie in for the 49ers?


JL: The York family is dedicated to the empowerment and education of Bay Area youth. The value in our program is in helping create opportunities for young people to be inspired, to resource and inspire teachers, to bring families together around learning and to generally be of service in any way possible our educational ecosystem. Here at the 49ers, we strive to go one step further to ensure that people feel a part of our family. The work that we do at 49ers EDU is one of the many ways we live and breathe that value in our organization.



SiS/ AD: What were your results since you have developed the program?


JL: First, the program has provided trajectory- and mindset-changing experiences to more than 250,000 participants since its 2014 inception. 49ers EDU is always gathering and acting on feedback. Each participating teacher completes a survey on everything from content quality to program execution. Students are surveyed daily to ensure the goals of inspiring STEAM exploration and creating future interest in STEAM are achieved. 


Results include:

98% of students want to return to 49ers EDU

96% of teachers are ready to refer 49ers EDU to other educators

75% of students report a better grasp of STEAM concepts

64% of students report an interest in exploring STEAM careers

60% are from Title I schools


49ers EDU extends student and teacher learning beyond field trips. 49ers EDU’s playbook—a 40+ page textbook—provides self- and educator-directed learning experiences. This free gift to every 49ers EDU participant (over 250,000 to date) enables them to dive into dozens of additional learning experiences. The teacher professional development program allows educators who’ve experienced the field trip to return, gaining key experience and training. In 2016, 49ers EDU was the first professional sports organization to partner with the worldwide leader in free online education Khan Academy, and still provides free football and STEAM content for parents, teachers, and students via the global learning platform.

In 2018, 49ers EDU was tapped by College Football Playoff (CFP) Foundation – which aims to support educators across the country – ahead college football’s biggest game coming to Levi’s Stadium. Around the 2019 CFP National Championship in Santa Clara, Calif., 49ers EDU aided CFP Foundation for 18+ months in supporting Bay Area educators - leading to a $1M contribution for comprehensive educational support, impacting 1,000+ teachers and 55,000 students.



SiS/ AD: What are you the proudest of?


JL: The way we innovate, grow and evolve. When we launched our program, in our first year, we served nearly 30,000 participants but turned away almost as many. In a true testament to the commitment of this organization and its leadership, we immediately constructed another three classrooms inside Levi’s Stadium, allowing us to increase our annual participant number to 60,000, which is where it sits today.

In year three, we realized that to effect change and learning opportunities at additional scale, we needed to reach teachers. So, at that juncture, we created our teacher professional development program, which brings groups of educators into our building each month to learn from one another, study a particular subject/concept that is germane to their work, and receive resources to deploy in their classrooms.

In the years since, we have launched after-school programs, award/grant programs, career/college readiness events, family initiatives and a number of other things that speak to our desire to do as much as we can to serve students and educators in our region. I am also very proud of the fact that I know this ethos will never leave our program … we are insatiable when it comes to how we can help students, teachers, families and our community at large.



SiS/ AD: What did not work but gave you key insights to improve?


JL: We have done a number of things that fall into this category. I think the thing that is easiest to articulate would be that we have developed and implemented a number of different lessons and/or activities that, while strategically and academically sound, just did not move educators and teachers. In seeing that, we have either removed them from our catalog, adjusted them a bit or rethought them completely to ensure that what we are delivering is what inspires interest and engagement from both students and teachers. It is this process—one might call it “self-scouting,” that ensures we are always putting content out that is sharp, enjoyable and aligned to what our constituents want to see.



SiS/ AD: What was your biggest surprise?


JL: I am not sure what the biggest surprise was/is, as I relish them all as points of light in our continued development and celebration of what we do. However, I can tell one anecdote that I found (and still find) surprising, indicative of the realities our students face, and, in a way, inspiring.

We subsidize transportation for any Title 1 school. In so doing, we partner with a company that uses very nice charter buses to provide the service. Many of those vehicles pick up children that are coming to visit us from extremely difficult circumstances. Some of these children have never left their neighborhoods and certainly never been on a vehicle of the caliber we send to pick them up.

We have had children not want to get off the bus when they arrive at Levi’s Stadium because they have never ridden on such an amazing vehicle and assume it will be the pinnacle of their experience. This is funny/surprising in a way but also makes us think. What an incredible opportunity we have to take a young person who thinks that the most exciting thing that will happen to them on that day is a bus trip, and then create a truly inspiring, engaging and fun learning experience for her/him. Then we have the chance to put them right on that bus for the ride home to enjoy that second trip and ruminate on what the experience meant to them.



SiS/ AD: What is your next move to grow your STEAM program with the 49ers?


JL: We are always looking for ways to continue to reach young people in a way that educates and empowers them. What that translates to in the near term for us is continuing to research and uncover ways to scale our impact. While we don’t have any particular new initiatives on deck in the short term (outside of our normal curriculum iteration, growing the number of awards we provide teachers and the like), I don’t think it will be very long until we venture into an arena that allows us to make more of our work mobile and accessible to more learners in more places. This is something we are examining strategically and, given our track record of doing everything we can to make ourselves better, I look forward to the chance to try some of these things out.



SiS/ AD: You are not only working for EDU Academy, let us know more?


JL: One of the things that we realized after bringing our program to market and running it for a few years is that many organizations are very interested in how to use education to serve their communities and also to accomplish business objectives. Metaphorically, our phone rang off the hook when we launched our program, and that continues to happen.

In that learning/observation, we noted an opportunity to create a platform to help museums, teams, nonprofit organizations, and other groups build and launch educational programming. EDU Academy was created in 2017 to do just that. Since that time, we have worked with 10-15 different organizations to do everything from creating one-time STEAM-based events to launch entire field trip programs and everything in between. We are incredibly fortunate to possess the IP behind the creation and introduction of learning programs that truly move people and benefit communities, and we are very interested in using that knowledge to help make opportunities available to kids around the country and world.



SiS/ AD: Any final message for SiS Community?


JL: What occurs to me is this: there is a quote that is used often in our organization. The first person I believe I heard use it was our General Manager John Lynch. It reads “to whom much is given, much is required.”

This simple and direct statement is something that everyone in the business world—whether it’s sports or any other industry—should take to heart. Every company, every organization, every brand … every individual person working for any of those entities … can find a way to use their platforms/passions to serve others. Seek out your opportunity, deliver it and do it with altruism and grace. We all have a responsibility to make our communities better places to live, learn and love. Take it and cherish it.

 
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Jeese Lovejoy at Beyond Innovation SummitBeyond Innovation Summit
 
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