New Opportunities Come With Sport Management-Educational Leadership Pairing

ThinkStockBecause Sport Management is more about educating students to become leaders in the sport industry than exercise scientists, athletic trainers or physical therapists, the program has transitioned out of the Department Kinesiology and into the Department of Educational Leadership. Both are within UConn’s Neag School of Education.

Sport Management faculty offices are now located in the Gentry Building on UConn’s Storrs campus. Previously, the program was located in Gampel Pavilion.

“It’s an exciting and, really, a logical move, in that both of our programs are dedicated to preparing future leaders of major social institutions,” said Educational Leadership Department Head Casey Cobb, Ph.D. “Educational Leadership helps prepare students to become academic leaders of educational organizations, while Sport Management helps prepare students to become leaders in sports-related institutions.

“For both programs, however, it’s not just about providing students with ‘how-to,'” Cobb continued. “We want students to receive an education and experience that will teach them to be the critical thinkers needed to advance these fields, and to use their leadership as a platform for social change.”

At any given time, as many as 40 undergraduate and 30 graduate students—master’s and doctoral—are working toward Sport Management degrees. No aspect of the move has affected the core curriculum of the program, which provides students with the education they need to examine, and approach, sport management through a “critical lens,” said Associate Professor Laura Burton, Ph.D.

“Sport Management isn’t just about how to get more fans to attend a game,” explained Burton, one of two full-time Sport Management faculty members. “It’s about examining the impact sport has on society. Sport leaders have a huge influence on how people think and act; on what society believes is right and wrong. That’s a huge responsibility, and requires training very similar to what Educational Leadership provides. Both of our programs are training students to become leaders in fields that can help make our society a more just, less divisive and overall better place.”

Entrance into all levels of Sport Management is competitive, added Associate Professor Jennifer Bruening, Ph.D. Undergraduate and master’s students leave prepared to enter careers in professional, college, youth and non-profit sports, as well as event and facility management and media relations. Most Ph.D. graduates become part of the growing number of sport management academic programs at domestic and international colleges and universities, conducting research on sport as an instrument for social equity.

“While at the outset Sport Management evolved from a physical education program, and being part of the Department of Kinesiology seemed like the most logical fit, our programs have moved in different directions over the years,” Bruening explained. “Kinesiology at UConn is doing positive things, ranked as the best in the country, but department members’ research is based on biological science. Sport Management is a social science, and so more closely aligned with the work of Educational Leadership faculty”

Regarded as one of the best Kinesiology departments in the U.S., UConn’s doctoral Kinesiology program is ranked #1 by the National Academy of Kinesiology. Faculty includes recognized leaders in the fields of exercise science, exercise and sport nutrition, athletic training and physical therapy.

Despite Sport Management’s new physical location, faculty and students will continue to share resources and work with those in Kinesiology. There’s also the expectation that connections formed by the new Sport Management-Educational Leadership partnership will lead to greater synergies and opportunities for everyone.

“Having Sport Management now working alongside Education Leadership is a real boon for us, added Cobb. “We’re really excited about the possibilities. Educational Leadership will get the chance to share education practices and models that could be adapted to create better sport industry leaders, and Sport Management will share practices on how educators can better use sports to engage and teach students. There’s a lot of potential for outstanding partnerships between our programs that will only benefit our students and, ideally, society overall.”