Alumni Q&A: Sulahian Pursues Master's, Writes for USA Today
Michelle Sulahian

July 9, 2014

Former Michigan women's tennis player Michelle Sulahian (2009-12) helped the Wolverines win three Big Ten titles during her career, finishing with 85 singles wins and 87 doubles wins to rank in the top 15 in each category. Sulahian moved back home to California after wrapping up her tenure in the Maize and Blue.

Sulahian is currently pursuing a master's degree in urban planning from Southern California and will graduate in the spring of 2015. While going through her program, she is also writing for a sports business website affiliated with USA Today and working at the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning. She still plays tennis and wants to work for the International Olympic Committee after completing her second degree.

Q. What have you been doing since your graduation from Michigan in 2012?

A. "Since graduation, I've been back home in Los Angeles. I took a year off and now am in graduate school at Southern California studying urban planning. I have one more year before I graduate in 2015, unless of course I decide to stay in school even longer. That is unlikely, but you never know; Dr. Michelle sounds pretty good to me! I've been playing tennis -- lots of doubles nowadays. School has been keeping me very busy, so I haven't been able to do as much traveling as I would like to. I'll be taking a trip to Boston and Lake Tahoe in July so that will be the extent of my summer travels. I'm currently working part time for a professor and what I call "volunterning" (volunteer interning) at two places, so I get pretty excited for the weekend when I don't have to work."

Q. What is your affiliation with Fields of Green?

A. "In addition to school, work and everything else in between, I am a contributor for the Fields of Green, an online partnership between USA TODAY Sports Media Group and the USC Sports Business Institute that delivers daily content covering the business of sports. I reached out to the USC Sports Business Institute for a research assistant position last year and I ended up getting this amazing opportunity. A group of students, mostly from the business school, contribute several times a week. We write about current events and issues in the sports business world. I love being a part of this because I can talk about sports even more while getting a feel for what being a sports journalist is like. I also get to write about some of the issues and hot topics regarding sports venues and events, such as the World Cup and many posts about tennis."

Q. What is a typical day like for you?

A. "Right now, a typical day would start off with driving or taking the train to work downtown at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. I work part time for my professor and usually work three days a week. I then go and "voluntern" at one of my internships in downtown, at the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, for some extra experience to complement my master's degree. If it's a Wednesday, I head to tennis after work and play a couple hours of doubles. I am in one class this summer so I have class once a week, which continues to keep my schedule full. The days are long, but I really enjoy keeping myself busy. I would say it's been really beneficial getting involved in many different kinds of organizations and activities."

Michelle Sulahian

Q. Why did you decide to go back to school for a master's degree?

A. "Graduate school didn't cross my mind while at Michigan but in the fall of 2012, I decided to apply to a couple of urban planning master's programs and take it from there. I decided on urban planning after taking an urban planning class in the sport management program my senior year at Michigan. Professor Rosentraub taught the class that basically looked at how sports stadiums and mega events can economically affect a region. I was fascinated by the topic, so I decided this would be the graduate school path I would take if I ever decided to go back to school. It ended up being my favorite class BY FAR. So, thanks to Professor Rosentraub, I am halfway through my master's program in urban planning with a focus on economic development. It's been great so far, and I am learning a ton. I am excited for the professional world after I graduate."

Q. What is your plan following USC?

A. "With an urban planning degree, you have a few options and I have narrowed it to two. You can work for a city's planning department, specifically in the economic development department, or take the private sector route and work for a real estate development or consulting firm. I am open to both and am looking forward to my second year in the program to narrow it down. With my major, I can work in the public sector, but with my real estate development certificate (which I am pursuing simultaneously); I have the option of working in the real estate development industry. Ideally, I would love to work for the International Olympic Committee where I would help Olympic host cities develop a plan for their new stadiums and how to maximize on the investment after the event is over. Right now, many cities are struggling with finding ways to keep their million dollar investments alive. For example, Beijing spent so much money on their Olympic infrastructure for the 2008 Olympics, but many stadiums stand unused, collecting dust instead of being used for events, sporting games, etc. Integrating my sports background into the degree makes me enjoy urban planning even more."

Michelle Sulahian

Q. Do you still play tennis?

A. "Absolutely! I still play, but not as often as I did while at Michigan. I try to play as much as I can. Although I prefer doubles, I will still play singles with friends and my younger brother, who is also a competitive tennis player in high school. I've also been playing a lot of paddle tennis too, just to mix it up, and I love it!"

Q. How did Michigan prepare you for your life after college?

A. "Being in Ann Arbor for four years has given me a lot of great experiences that I draw upon in my everyday life here in LA. Time management is really important in graduate school when I work while studying, so my time management skills have come in handy. I've learned to become a much more independent, hard-working and persistent person. College tennis taught me to never give up in anything I do and to go after what I want. The life lessons are incredibly valuable for me."

Q. Do you miss Ann Arbor?

A. "I miss Ann Arbor a ton. It was hard for me to not go to grad school at U-M. I have been back twice now and plan on going back in the fall for a football game. USC is great, but Ann Arbor is where my heart is at."

Michelle Sulahian

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