Alumnus Combines Political Science Goals With Soccer Dreams

AnttiAntti Laitinen, ’00, started his studies at UCF in the fall of 1997 with the help of an athletic scholarship. He came to Central Florida from Finland and was recruited as the men’s soccer goalkeeper. His goal was to graduate and then return to Finland. Because he was interested in working either as a journalist, a political advisor or a researcher upon graduation, he decided to focus on American politics with a minor in American history (post WWII). He felt having the opportunity to study the American political system in the U.S. would help him gain an edge in the job market over those who had studied the same subject in Europe.

Laitinen thoroughly enjoyed his years at UCF, but because he was a student-athlete, he did not have an opportunity to participate in any extracurricular activities offered by the department outside the classroom. Therefore, it soon became clear that with no practical experience, the leap from classroom to work life would have been too great for him. So, he decided it was time for graduate school.

He began by looking at options to obtain his master’s degree in the U.S., but as someone who is always interested in learning more about everything, he soon got sidetracked and decided to pursue an M.B.A. in sports management in Liverpool, England. Upon his arrival in Merseyside, he soon figured out that every single one of his classmates had been hand-picked after a rigorous application procedure and personal interviews. However, nobody had ever invited him in for an interview. “My coursework and the references my professors at UCF wrote for me must have made me look good enough to skip the interview process completely,” he says.

In spite of all the good ideas and intentions he had along the way to get a “real” job, he has never really had a true desire to build a conventional career. Ever since he started high school at a sports-specific program in Helsinki, Finland, the guiding force behind every single career move he made was soccer. However, he says, although he’s currently working as a soccer coach at UCF, it would be foolish to try to argue that he has not needed his degrees.

“The fact that I had completed a degree in the U.S. turned out to be an asset, as I was hired by a global consulting company to do a job that also required an M.B.A.,” he explains. “Without that job I would not have been able to gain the temporary financial freedom that allowed me to focus on my passion of coaching soccer full-time.” And that is exactly what he is doing right now — he returned to UCF as the assistant soccer coach for the men’s team.

During the 11 years since his graduation from UCF, he’s often been asked if he’s happy with his choice of majoring in political science. “I could not be happier,” he says. “The education I acquired has been instrumental in helping me understand the forces behind the driving force in the world economy. That understanding has helped me to relate to countless people from all over the world. After all, what really matters after your graduation is not what your degree is on but how well you can relate to people. Therefore, my advice to those considering political science as their major would be to forget elaborate career plans and go with something that really feels interesting. Destiny will take care of the rest.”

Comments are closed.