When Rob Galm toured ESPN’s headquarters as an eighth-grader in 2009, he made a bold promise.
“I told everyone on the tour that I was going to work there some day,” remembers Rob, who was 14 when he first visited the sports network’s main campus in Bristol, Conn.
He even took a photo behind SportsCenter’s anchor desk as proof.
True to his word, Rob didn’t waste any time working towards his big-picture career goal. A month after completing his degree as a communication studies major at SUNY Cortland, he landed a full-time job with the undisputed worldwide leader in sports.
“It was on the top of my list of places I wanted to get to,” says Rob, who grew up in Pine Plains, N.Y., roughly 90 minutes from his new employer. “So being able to have it work out, especially after graduating early, that was really cool.”
His role as a production assistant involves watching ESPN’s live programming, logging it and editing when needed. So when a college basketball game runs two hours and 15 minutes but it’s scheduled to re-air in a two-hour time slot, Rob’s job is to trim the footage down while still keeping the story of the game.
He’s quick to point out that it’s entry-level work, but that doesn’t make it any less special — not even close. He’s treating the opportunity like a baseball player would a call-up to the New York Yankees.
It’s the exclamation point on an impressive undergraduate career that saw Rob dabble in a little bit of everything as a jack-of-all-trades communications pro, from his position as radio station manager at WSUC-FM to producer of countless sports video projects with CSTV. He also handled play-by-play duties for 13 different Red Dragon sports and did all of it while working towards a 4.03 GPA.
“One of the things Cortland taught me is the importance of valuing every interaction and seizing every opportunity, no matter how small it may seem,” says Rob, before praising seemingly every member of the Communication Studies Department, from Professor Caroline Kaltefleiter, his academic advisor, to Maryalice Griffin, the department’s secretary.
What’s funny is that he almost changed major at one point. Rob worried a week into the first semester of his freshman year that he wasn’t prepared for the communications field.
“Then I realized that (college) is where you’re supposed to get your experience,” he says.
He remembers showing up to a Cortland basketball game during his sophomore year at the invitation of James Forshee, a lecturer in the College’s Sport Management Department and a mentor to many aspiring sports broadcasters. To his surprise, Rob was handed a microphone when he arrived. His reputation on campus grew.
He applied for a summer internship at ESPN as a junior. Out of a pool of approximately 1,000 applicants, he was one of 60 finalists but ultimately didn’t make the final cut. Network staffers encouraged him to finish his degree and re-apply for a job. Rather than sulk, Rob worked harder — spending more hours in the studio and taking on 20 credits in his final semester to graduate early.
“I took so much away from that experience,” he says.
But ask Rob for the accomplishment he’s most proud of from his time at SUNY Cortland and he won’t list a sports memory. He’ll point to a grassroots charity walk that he organized in 2016, one that raised thousands of dollars for multiple sclerosis research. His mother Barbara is affected by the disease, so Rob organized the walk on Mothers’ Day of his junior year.
He remembers worrying about attendance. Fifteen minutes before the event was supposed to begin, Rob counted only a dozen or so people.
“Then I blinked and 100 people showed up out of nowhere,” he says.
In many ways, that moment paralleled his Cortland experience. He was nervous at first, but in the end he achieved the unexpected.
“That was the culmination of several years worth of friendships and relationships.”