Valerie Shields ’06

Valerie Shields ’06, public relations, looks back fondly on her time at the University of Rhode Island. A lifelong sports fan, Shields used her degree in public relations to pursue her interest in sports. Today, she is the director of strategic business ventures for the New York Yankees.

Why did you choose to study at URI?

I actually followed my high school boyfriend to the University of Rhode Island. He was two years older than me, and we broke up a month before I got there. It could not have worked out any better. Because I was like, “Wow, look what I lucked into.” I had no idea about the state of Rhode Island until I went to URI. 

I always tell people it’s beautiful every season, and it’s just a lovely state. It felt like it was far enough away from North Jersey that I felt like I was going away to school, but close enough that I could come home. URI was also the perfect size. I always felt like it was big enough that I felt like I was at college but small enough that I could still see people I knew. It worked out great, unlike the relationship. I always tell people if you don’t know where you want to go, look at the University of Rhode Island. 

What made you choose to study PR and go into sports?

It’s funny. In high school, we took one of those quizzes that tell you what you should do in the future. Mine was public relations or nothing. So I was like, “Well, I’m ready to go the PR route.” I had this idea that I wanted to work in baseball more than anything, so I said, “Okay, I’ll do public relations, and then I’ll figure out the baseball part.” 

My cousins are mostly male, and they always were into baseball. Every summer, we went up to my grandma’s, and they had baseball cards to trade, and that was like how you got to talk. Like if you didn’t have baseball cards to trade, you weren’t hanging. So I started trading baseball cards. I needed a team, and I asked my dad, who said the Yankees. So I became like this big Yankees fan in fourth or fifth grade. Then that’s when the dynasties started. They won the World Series in 1996 and again in 98. So it was just something that was very exciting when I was growing up.

How do you use the skills you learned while you were at URI today?

I was a tour guide, I was in the Student Alumni Association, and then I was also in Alpha Delta Pi, where I was the president. I did a ton in high school, and I was burnt out. I told myself when I got to college, I was going to take my classes and make my friends. That lasted like a day, and I was like, “Oh, I can sign up for this. I can sign up for that.” 

I think it was just that I had a lot of opportunities to interact with a lot of different people. In the real world, not everyone wants to be spoken to the same way, and they won’t speak to you the same way. I think it was just kind of like having that experience where I learned about people. 

Describe your favorite memory from your time as a student.

I always have fond memories of URI. I grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, but I went to high school [in a different town], so I never lived where my friends were. So things like snow days or beautiful beach days with my friends were great memories. I lived where my friends were, which was so cool and new to me. There were always people around, and I didn’t have to drive to see them. I think those times with friends were my favorite memories.

What one piece of advice would you give Harrington students who are preparing to enter the workforce?

Work hard, but also be a little patient. When I was graduating, I felt like “I need to get this job” and “Why aren’t people calling back.” Even after I got my first full-time position, I was very much like, “Well, now I want to get promoted.” 

That’s all great, but you’re gonna work for a long time. It’ll come. Enjoy the journey because you’re gonna learn a lot on your way there. I listened to a podcast once where a woman was talking about her son’s football coach or something. He talked to the parents and said, “Bloom where you’re planted.” If your kid is on JV, be the best JV player. So that’s what I always tell my team, “Let’s bloom here.”