Class of 2018: Phillip McGloin wants to promote sports as a cultural unifier

MyVU has profiled 14 members of the Class of 2018. We’re featuring their stories in the lead up to Commencement on May 11.

Phillip McGloin (Susan Urmy/Vanderbilt)
Phillip McGloin (Susan Urmy/Vanderbilt)

Since he was 13, Phillip McGloin’s world had orbited around basketball. It even influenced his college choice. “I picked Vanderbilt over a couple of other schools because it’s a great university, gave me a lot of financial aid, and it was somewhere I thought I could play basketball,” said the senior from Washington, D.C.

McGloin walked on to the Commodore basketball team as a freshman and played three seasons. But he chose to leave the team during his junior year to begin planning more seriously for his future.

In March, the economics and political science double major and finance and Chinese double minor was named one of 18 Luce Scholars, a nationally competitive fellowship designed to enhance the understanding of Asia among potential leaders. He’ll spend the next year in Xiamen, in the Fujian province of China, working in the basketball business division of Anta, a leading sportswear company.

McGloin credits his adviser and professor, sports economist John Vrooman, with helping him find a career path that would meld academics and athletics after he left the basketball team.

“He helped me understand how I could stay involved in sports as a nonplayer,” McGloin said. “He made me feel like I could make working in sports business a legitimate career path.

“To have had that support at Vanderbilt has been really, really nice,” McGloin said. “When I was off track a little and needed help, I felt like I could ask for it.”

McGloin’s dream career—which he readily acknowledges is a moving target—is to be the head of an organization focused on bringing China and America closer together through sports. He sees sports as a vehicle for addressing the biases that people in both countries may have about one another.

“Sports is one of the great ways of bringing people together on an equal playing field,” he said. “It’s a really cool starting point for building meaningful relationships, especially as the world gets smaller. We’re all going to be neighbors, in a sense, fairly soon.

“Sports is what I love, and I genuinely feel like I can do some good with that,” he said. “I feel lucky that things are lining up right now.”