When he’s not volunteering for the Rice All-Stars or brainstorming entrepreneurship ideas, Sergio Santamaria is living and breathing (but not always playing) sports.
“Honestly, for me, everything is sports. Everything is sports,” he said.
As the president of the Rice Rally Club and a double major in sport management and data science (a major he designed), Santamaria is clear about who he is and where his interests lie.
Duncan College senior Dhruv Madhok describes Santamaria as “in love with” sports.
“He brings incredible energy to Rice sports games and is one of the founders of Rice Rally – a club that's been trying to fight student apathy for Rice sports,” Madhok said.
Santamaria has spent the majority of his time at Rice in sports-related activities, albeit in a variety of applications.
“What I've learned from being in a school like Rice is that you arguably learn even more from people with different perspectives and different experiences,” he said, while playing with a fidget cube.
One of Santamaria’s unique experiences was an invitation to the Forbes Under 30 summit. Santamaria was selected to attend the conference in Boston after a competitive application process. The conference, which includes alumni such as Kendrick Lamar and Lindsey Vonn, offers scholarship programs to allow talented students to attend.
Leading up to the conference, his excitement was evident. He spoke passionately about the social connections he was looking forward to making.
“I can’t tell you how cool this person’s going to be or this person’s going to be, but I can tell you that I’m going to learn a lot from everyone that I come across,” he said.
After the conference, Santamaria said he was not disappointed. The conference, which took place Oct. 1-4, provided Santamaria with the impactful conversations he sought.
“I've never found it easier to find deep and substantial conversations with quality people,” he said. “After those three days, it felt like I'd known the people I met there for months.”
While Santamaria’s passion is sports, he enjoyed learning about the ways successful people impart positive change through their own talents and passions.
“It sounds cliché, but every once in a while it helps to hear the thought processes of extremely successful people that, although all different in their own way, share the motifs of pursuing a higher purpose and objective through the mediums that mean the most to them,” he said.
Moving forward in his senior year, Santamaria continues to focus on the business side of sports, and even student government. He’s involved in the Rice Sport Business Society (RSBS), and is a representative for student athletes in SA. He himself is not a student athlete.
As a student athlete representative, Santamaria feels that athletes are not always included or viewed the same as the rest of the student body. In his time at Rice, Santamaria has noticed a divide between student athletes and non-athlete students that he likens to the difference between architecture or music students and non-architecture or non-music students.
“What I think people fail to understand sometimes is that everyone at Rice is a certain level of gifted, but they're all in different ways, and it can be difficult at times to relate to someone that's gifted in a different way,” he said.
He said he feels the largest divide is that between athletes and non-athletes “because the type of gifts that they have are so different.”
As an SA representative, Santamaria is committed to finding solutions that lessen the tension between athletes and the rest of the student body within the Rice campus. One goal he has is to give student athletes priority registration for classes. On a broader level, he is working toward changes in the ways student athletes and non-athlete students perceive and interact with each other.
“Don't get me wrong, it's a two-way street,” Santamaria said. “Student athletes need to buy into this the same way that I would like regular students to do. You gotta start somewhere, so why not start with both?”
Santamaria sees himself extending his enthusiasm for sports into his career – specifically, basketball.
“I hope to work in basketball. It always comes back to basketball for me,” he said.
Santamaria sees himself as a leader and entrepreneur in the world of sports – not as a player, though.
“I’m five foot seven,” he laughed.
With a three season internship for the Houston Rockets, Santamaria got the experience he needs to go into the world of sports business.
“I may go into consulting, I may go into basketball operations, I may work more in the business operations side of a sports ownership entity,” he said. “I expect to find myself in a role where I find actionable and very ambitious results with very constrained resources.”
And right after college? Santamaria plans to keep his options open. “No matter where I end up, I'll be pursuing things that I’m passionate about,” he said.