Family Ties

Michael Rawlins ’80, P’16, PHOTO COURTESY OF ESPN IMAGES

by Josh Brown

For Michael Rawlins ’80, P’16, the HWS community represents much more than an alma mater or an academic institution; it’s family. Rawlins is among five of six children in his family to attend Hobart and William Smith, including the late Philip Rawlins ’75, Janice Rawlins-Ferguson ’76, Marilyn Rawlins-Grundy ’86 and Norman Rawlins ’88.

As a young man, Rawlins caught a sneak peak of what life at HWS was like when he went to visit his older brother, Philip for the first time. From that moment on, he was certain he would follow in his brother’s footsteps.

“From the first time I stepped foot on the campus to visit my brother in 1971, I absolutely fell in love with the place,” he says. “I fell in love with the comradery that I saw, and my forgone conclusion from there was ‘I want to be like that. I want to go there.’”

Rawlins went on to graduate from Hobart with a double major in fine arts and art history and has since made his mark at one of the most recognizable companies in the country – ESPN, where Rawlins is the principal user experience design architect at the ESPN Technology Division where he works to improve the interactions employees have with ESPN enterprise business applications. With his son, Dylan, set to graduate in 2016, Rawlins is committed to giving back to the Colleges that have opened so many doors for him and his family.

“While I was in school I had a model in my brother Philip,” says Rawlins. “He helped me to understand that success is not just based on academic achievements, it was also the ability to make connections and establish resources in the workforce.”

It was this model that inspired Rawlins to take action. During Orientation and Convocation weekend of Dylan’s first year, he met Jackie Doyle, associate director of Employer Development in the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education, and instantly signed up to participate in the Professionals in Residence program.

“I jumped on the opportunity,” recalls Rawlins. “I told Jackie, ‘I am happy to do anything I can to help HWS students or to be a mentor.’”

Along with being ESPN’s principal user experience design architect, Rawlins also serves as the vice president of the User Experience Professionals Association International ( He has led teams as the UX director/strategist at companies such as Cigna, Open FiServ, MassMutual, Hartford Life and Aetna. Rawlins is also an adjunct professor at Manchester Community College (MCC), and serves on a host of technology and industry boards, including the MCC Technology and Communications Advisory Board.

In addition to speaking with students on campus about his career, Rawlins invites students to Bristol, Conn., to get a behindthe- scenes look at the world-renowned ESPN campus. This year, Jonah Gould ’18 toured the studio and explored how the company is run with Rawlins by his side.

During his time with students, Rawlins stresses, “It’s okay to be a late bloomer. It’s okay to try your hand at many different career paths. The journey is fun. It’s similar to my time on campus when I didn’t quite know how I would evolve, but I had great professors and I was in a great thinking environment.”

Rawlins acknowledges that his career has certainly been a journey, having worked in a number of different fields before ending up in his current role at ESPN.

“When I graduated with my double major in the arts, no one would have thought that years later I would be working as a technologist,” he explains. “It was my ability to embrace the liberal arts concept of understanding patterns, and how different disciplines work together that allowed me to get to where I am now. I really try to get the students to understand the importance of the academic training they are receiving, and to recognize how all of these different domains and disciplines work together.”


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