In four years at the University of Miami (Fla.), Taylor Burrell played only four matches on the volleyball team. Injuries disrupted that part of her college experience, but they didn't prevent Burrell from earning her B.B.A. in marketing.
So when it came time to choose a business school, Burrell wanted a place where she also could use her final two seasons of eligibility on the court. A solid program was a must. First and foremost would be furthering her education at one of the nation's elite MBA programs.
That sent Burrell to William & Mary's Raymond A. Mason School of Business. She helped lead the volleyball team to its first postseason win since 2001. And she's enrolled in one of the best business schools in the U.S.
"I didn't want to play professionally, so I didn't mind sacrificing a Power Five program for a really good business school," Burrell said. "With all the schools I was looking at, I was mostly concerned with their MBA programs and rankings.
"I was actually recruited by William & Mary when I was in high school, and I already had a familiar background. So when they came into the picture, I was super excited because I knew their business school was really good. That was the biggest factor in my decision."
Burrell is one of two grad transfers on the volleyball team who came to the Mason School along with setter Emma Minnick. Also with two players in the Mason School are women's basketball (Riley Casey and Sydney Wagner) and men's basketball (Chris Mullins and Anders Nelson).
All told, William & Mary has 43 student athletes taking graduate-level courses in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business MBA and Specialized Masters Programs. That includes 22 grad transfers from a list of universities that includes Rice, Princeton, Bucknell, Cornell and Columbia.
"We are highly selective in the full-time MBA Program," said Amanda Barth, assistant dean of MBA admissions. "Student athletes using extra eligibility must demonstrate superior academic excellence from top-tier academic institutions like William & Mary.
"Tribe Athletics coaches share a philosophy that athletes are students first. They evaluate a prospective student-athlete from both the athletic and academic standpoints, equally. That's how serious they take this, and I think it's rare."
W&M director of athletics Brian Mann believes the relationship benefits both Tribe sports and the business school.
"Our coaches can attract elite student athletes, and the business school is getting qualified candidates with a proven track record of success," he said. "Most importantly, our student athletes are getting the best of both worlds by competing at the highest level of the NCAA while getting a world-class education.
"It's been my experience that they (Mason School) are not simply willing to admit student-athletes into the MBA program, but rather they believe our student-athletes add great value by being in the classroom. It's an important distinction and one that sets us apart."
No program has made use of that relationship more than men's basketball coach Dane Fischer. Since his first season in 2019-20, Fischer has brought five grad transfers who enrolled in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business.
Bryce Barnes '21, Tyler Hamilton '21 and Brandon Carroll '22 earned their MBAs. Nelson, a point guard on this season's team, is enrolled in the MBA program. Mullins, a guard and defensive stopper, is working on his Master of Science in Business Analytics.
"Tyler Hamilton and Bryce Barnes (in 2019-20) were the first two men's basketball players we tested the water with for balancing the MBA, which is quite intensive," Barth said. "We're introducing the opportunity for the MBA because student athletes are going to go out and be tremendous leaders."
Today, Hamilton is a Collegiate Partnerships Associate with Athletes First, one of the leading sports management firms. Barnes is the Brand Marketing Senior Account Coordinator with Excel Sports Management in New York.
"The MBA program at William & Mary has been integral to where I am today," Barnes said. "It focuses on preparing you as a professional. It helped prepare me for the work world and the real world. The community and support from the staff and professors helped me move on to my career."
Barnes, Hamilton and Carroll were all starters for the Tribe. So are Nelson, the team's leading scorer, and Mullins.
"The prestige of the business school is something that most guys know about before we even call them," Fischer said. "It's an unbelievable recruiting tool.
"Once we start having the conversation, the more they learn, the more excited they get about the school and the opportunity. And the people in the business school have been incredible working with us."
Casey, a starting guard and leading scorer for the Tribe, is in the MBA program after graduating from Columbia University in 2021. It's not only all she expected it to be, it's more.
"I love the diversity of the people in my MBA cohort," said Casey, who has a job lined up as an analyst with Raymond James Financial Services in St. Petersburg, Fla. "My first group had a global student from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a business professional from Tokyo, and two active duty military.
"I'm so happy I came here because of the classmates I've had the opportunity to learn with and learn from their experiences. It's been an invaluable journey."
Casey came to W&M the same year as Kate Sramac, who graduated from Cornell. She's spending the second year of her MBA program as a graduate assistant coach with the Tribe.
Minnick, a '22 graduate from Charleston Southern, appreciates the cooperation from the business school's administration.
"When I came here, they were so welcoming," said Minnick, who is enrolled in the Master of Science in Business Analytics program. "They made me feel like this was going to be a place that would give me a lot that wouldn't just last a year or two but for the rest of my life.
"William & Mary has the best network I've ever seen. I knew that was going to benefit me for my future."
College athletes already have a full plate, but Barth has seen that discipline in sports transfer to the classroom.
"Business school is strongly focused fully based on developing professional skills and leadership," said Barth, who played softball at Wittenberg University in Ohio. "Student athletes have all the potential to rise to the top in an MBA Program.
"They execute strong time management skills, work well in their learning teams, and compete for top internships. And they have an incredible propensity to become future business leaders."