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Hitting the tough shots

MBA student Peljto turns passion into projects; works behind the scenes on the sports analytics conference.
MBA student Hana Peljto
MBA student Hana Peljto

MBA student Hana Peljto can hit a three-pointer, speak four languages, organize basketball camps for Bosnian children, plan a major, high-visibility sports analytics conference, complete an internship for Gatorade, plan her wedding, and earn an MBA at the MIT Sloan School of Management, all with enthusiasm and grace.

Peljto came to MIT Sloan to pursue her passion for the business of sports — an interest she has had since she was a child. When she was 10, her family saw that the ethnic conflict in Sarajevo, Bosnia, was not going to improve and they moved to Slovenia, then Canada, eventually settling in Minnesota where she attended high school. “Throughout my family’s ordeal, sports provided me with an outlet and instilled in me a strong work ethic, confidence, and an appreciation for teamwork,” she said.

She was accepted to Harvard University where she earned an AB in psychology while playing on the women’s basketball team. As team captain, she was honored with the Harvard Radcliffe Foundation for Women’s Athletics Prize after leading Harvard to consecutive NCAA basketball tournament appearances and finishing as the third leading scorer in Ivy League history. She also received multiple player of the year awards and was named a Verizon Academic All-American. “Balancing school and basketball was hard, and academics are very important to me, so I had to learn how to manage my time effectively,” Peljto said.

During college, her passion for basketball was channeled into the creation of a basketball camp for Bosnian refugee children in Minnesota. “The basketball camp for other Bosnian children refugees was my first community engagement in which I sought to instill in others the values that sports have helped me develop.”

Peljto coordinated all aspects of the project. More than 40 children attended in the first year, leading her to organize separate boys’ and girls’ camps and hire more staff in the second year. The camp was recognized in the media for the positive impact on the community but, more importantly, a number of the campers continued to play basketball and become role models themselves in the community.

Following graduation in 2004, Peljto went on to pursue a lifelong dream of playing professional basketball for two years in France, in one of Europe’s top women’s basketball leagues. “I always wanted to play at the highest level of my sport, and it was great to have had that opportunity. I enjoyed travelling with the team and then on my own. It was a great opportunity professionally and internationally,” she said.

This year, Peljto is the co-lead of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which will have some of the same amazing guests the conference has had in the past. The keynote speaker is Malcolm Gladwell, writer for The New York Times and author of The Tipping Point. Other speakers will include Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks; ESPN writer Bill Simmons, and Sarah Robb O’Hagan, the chief marketing officer of Gatorade. “Having known some people who went through the MBA program here, I was excited to apply to MIT Sloan. I liked the culture here, and obviously a huge draw for me was the sports analytics conference,” Peljto said.

“The conference is a great collection of people and students who are interested in and excited about sports. Both the growth of the conference and students’ increasing enthusiasm has just been incredible over the last couple of years. This year we are considering having the conference take place over two days. To be a part of one of the pre-eminent sports conferences has been very exciting for me,” she noted, adding, “Sports have always been a huge part of my life. I have a passion for them, so I can definitely see myself working in sports in the long-term."

Peljto already has a jump-start on working in a sports-related field. This past summer she interned for Gatorade, the sports beverage, in the company’s Chicago office. Through her MIT Sloan network, Peljto was able to set up a series of interviews that eventually landed her a position in the marketing department. While at Gatorade, she worked on a retail strategy and laughed when she said, “I was very well hydrated this past summer.”

Peljto worked on a project that focused on investments in Gatorade’s retail outlets. She had the opportunity to meet Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer while there. “To get insight into how one of the largest sports drinks in the world really works was very valuable for me,” she said.

Earlier this fall, Peljto was awarded the prestigious Siebel Scholarship. The Siebel Scholars program recognizes outstanding graduate students from the world’s top-ranked business, computer science, and bioengineering graduate schools. This year’s 77 recipients from across the globe were chosen by the dean of their respective schools on the basis of outstanding academic achievement and demonstrated leadership. “I am very honored. It’s a great way to meet amazing and talented people,” she said.

As if Peljto did not have enough on her plate, she got married this past summer and she is a teaching assistant for Organizational Processes (15.311) and is a Pilot Captain for the Mediterranean Ocean this fall. She is also president of Vintners club. In her free time, Peljto enjoys cooking traditional Bosnian dishes. She said the key to fitting everything she wants to do into any given day is “good time management.”

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