School of Applied Sciences Helps Students Prepare for Careers in Sports Administration
OXFORD, Miss. – Professional athletes may be the ones most often recognized in the media, but the owners and managers are just as vital to their longevity in the sports world. A new degree program at the University of Mississippi is helping students prepare for careers in sports administration.
The university’s Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management launched its new Bachelor of Arts in Sport and Recreation Administration in fall 2016. Two new faculty members were hired to teach, research and lead development of the program.
“Our overarching goal was to provide a service-based sport and recreation education to increase the marketability of students after matriculation as young professionals as well as prepare them for graduate education,” said Kim Beason, professor of park and recreation management who coordinates the new program. “The new B.A. in Sport and Recreation Administration finally cleared the IHL last summer and we began accepting majors this past August.”
Some 70 students are already in the SRA program, with about 15 first-year students in the sports emphasis. Four sports-related courses were added to the curriculum to support the emphasis: “The Business of Sports,” “Marketing and Communication in Sport and Recreation,” “Sports Economics and Finance” and “Legal Aspects of Sport and Recreation.”
UM students in the sports emphasis are singing the program’s praises.
“The sports emphasis corresponds directly to what I hope to do with my career,” said Sydney Malone, a senior from Tuscumbia, Alabama. “I want to work on the business side of the sports industry, particularly Major League Baseball, so taking these specific classes benefits me the most.
“For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to work for the MLB, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned about the new program!”
As the program and faculty grow, administrators plan to work toward accreditation by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation. Officials expect to see the undergraduate program grow to house at least 200 students, plus master’s and doctoral degrees in sport and recreation administration.
“Our goal is for our students to have a 100 percent placement rate in the field and enough students and faculty to support forming a sport and recreation department,” Beason said.
All students must complete a capstone 400-hour internship within a sports, recreation, tourism or related organization/agency, plus earn a minor in an approved field, such as business or journalism. By completion of the program, students will have a core education that will prepare them to sit for the Certified Park and Recreation Professional certification test during their last semester.
“”Whether they wish to work for a sport franchise, sport tourism authority, community recreation agency or college recreation department, their Ole Miss education will prepare their entry into leadership, direct service and/or front-line supervisory positions,” Beason said.
Velmer Burton, dean of UM’s School of Applied Sciences, said the move is sure to benefit both the school and the university.
“This new program’s development is the result of several years of planning by our faculty in sports and recreation and working with the School of Business to create a high-quality curriculum for our students,” Burton said. “In addition to courses in sport and recreation, our students will benefit from a strong foundation of business courses.
“As a member of the SEC, along with the University of Mississippi’s rich tradition in athletics, offering this new program both meets the needs of our students, faculty and friends of the university and just makes good sense.”
Officials in the Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics agreed.
“The new sports and recreation management degree is of great interest to not only student-athletes but to the entire student body,” said Derek Cowherd, senior associate athletics director. “We see this program as a tremendous opportunity for student-athletes who want to make their craft their career.
“And it is something that many prospective student-athletes are interested in when ultimately choosing their school. This program is a tremendous asset to the university.”
Bryanna Castro, a senior recreation administration major from Orange County, California, agreed.
“Having the sport emphasis is beneficial to me because of the name itself,” said Castro, who plays second base for the Ole Miss Rebels softball team. “I also want to be a college softball coach when I finish college.”
The dedicated faculty members are the most important part of the program, Malone said.
“They are all extremely personable and genuinely want us each to succeed,” she said. “(Assistant professor) Nick Watanabe has even helped connect me with professionals already working in the sports industry, as well as landing me an internship with the Cape Cod Baseball League in baseball operations this summer. The program definitely wouldn’t be the same without our current professors.”
The Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management has offered a Bachelor of Arts in Recreation degree since 1973, which focuses on a service-based education preparing students for a variety of positions in the sports, parks, recreation, leisure and tourism fields.
After years of program development and support from the School of Applied Sciences plus the schools of Business Administration, Law and Journalism, the department added a sports emphasis to the undergraduate recreation administration program in 2016. The M.S. in Sport and Recreation should be available by 2018, followed within five years by a doctorate in the field.
For more information about the Department of Health Exercise, Recreation and Sports Management, visit http://hesrm.olemiss.edu/.