Sep 1, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT
The following feature on Monogram Club Executive Director Brant Ust was written by Joanne Norell, and first appeared in the football program for the Notre Dame vs. Rice game on Aug. 30, 2014.
For newly minted Notre Dame Monogram Club executive director Brant Ust, a return to the University of Notre Dame meant coming full circle.
The former baseball Monogram winner views himself as proof of the Club’s value to current and former Fighting Irish student-athletes, and a resource on which to depend during transition from player to professional. Ust’s journey after graduation spanned nine minor league baseball seasons, a stint as a coach at the University of Michigan and four years as Director of the 18U National team Program & Alumni Relations for USA Baseball before returning to South Bend.
“When I knew there would be an opportunity to pursue [the executive director position within the Monogram Club], I did so as vigorously as I could,” Ust says. “I think I’m very fortunate to be coming into this position while the Club is probably, arguably, at its strongest point in history. Just from my time here as an undergraduate and as a young alumnus, the Monogram Club has grown, transformed and continues to be so integral and involved not only in current student-athletes’ lives, but obviously in the lives of our former student-athletes as well.”
Ust, who while playing for Paul Mainieri was named BIG EAST Rookie of the Year in 1997 and the conference Player of the Year in 1998, was drafted in the sixth round of the 1999 MLB First-Year Player Draft and went on to spend nine seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and Seattle Mariners’ organizations. During his first two off-seasons, Ust returned to Notre Dame to complete his degree from the Mendoza College of Business.
While with USA Baseball, Ust spearheaded the organization’s efforts to create an alumni network to connect former and current national team players at every level. With alumni running the spectrum from Minnesota Twins star Joe Mauer to 12-year-olds on the 12U National Team, the goal was to provide resources and opportunities for all alumni once their playing careers ended.
An alumnus of two USA Baseball national teams — he played for the 1998 Collegiate National team and 2005 World Cup team — Ust was keenly tuned to how mutually beneficial a strong alumni network would be for the organization.
“We would invite back USA Baseball alumni to share their stories of their respective national team experiences with the current crop of players,” Ust says. “It was important for the young players to hear from them (the alumni) what it meant to represent their country in baseball. We started the beginnings of partnering on initiatives that USA Baseball had and on where those resources and assistance of alumni would help.”
Ust sees opportunities to use what he learned at USA Baseball and apply it to the alumni relations arm of the Monogram Club, which currently has in place a career mentoring program to prepare current student-athletes for life after competition. Ust also speaks of continuing to bolster and improve the initiatives that are already the backbone of the Monogram Club’s success, and expanding service opportunity offerings during its events and providing more pathways of involvement with Notre Dame.
“What I did learn and what I’m hoping I’m able to transfer and start here, is understanding it starts with engagement and involvement,” Ust said. “I think any time there’s an opportunity to reengage or engage with alumni that may have been away from the university or not as involved, it takes that involvement.
“How can they feel that they are a part of a program, initiative, something of value, where they’re a part of bridging that gap between current and former student-athletes?”
Ust credits his own time as a Notre Dame student-athlete for instilling in him the principles that still guide his approach to work. While spending the first 10 years of his life growing up in Europe, Ust listened to Fighting Irish football games on the Armed Forces Radio Network, only recognizing the University’s reputation for academics and excellence in other areas once he got older and began thinking about college.
Now, he considers his Notre Dame degree — more than anything outside of his family — as his most meaningful accomplishment. And he continues to value the connections he has made as both an undergraduate and Monogram Club member as he guides it forward.
“I think that standard of expectation was something I tried to carry with me beyond my time here at Notre Dame and, when I was a professional, trying to maximize whatever that opportunity I had in front of me to make the most of a professional playing career,” Ust said. “I just hope all Monogram winners will rekindle, if not already, but feel a part of this university via the Monogram Club. We’re here to help and serve however we and they see fit.”