Rice is a well-connected university and the Sport Management program provides a great example of that. Students registering for Spring 2011 classes had the new option of enrolling in a class called “Special Topics: Final Four Practicum.” Though the class required special permission from the instructor in order to enroll, the class size ended up with 27 eager and ambitious students. The class, which was largely project-based, allowed students to propose several ideas to the NCAA Men’s Final Four administration in addition to working events that surrounded the games.
When asked how the class was initiated, Professor Tom Stallings said that Doug Hall, an executive with Houston’s Local Organizing Committee, asked him if he could subcontract the “NCAA Men’s Final Four Career in Sports Forum” to the Rice University Sport Management program. In addition, a local marketing firm contacted the him to enlist the help of students for various projects. With both of these contacts and requests, the department thought there was enough interest and projects to create a course for it.
Projects and assignments of the class focused in different areas and interest. The “Career in Sports Forum” was a main event that the entire class worked on to execute. Roughly 500 high school and college students attended the fair, which had panels, workshops, and George Foreman as the keynote speaker. In addition, students were assigned to help out during events that surrounded the NCAA Men’s Final Four, which allowed them to gain valuable experience behind the scenes.
Lilly Marrow ’14 took the class and said that her favorite event was the Coca-Cola VIP event at Lucky Strike Lounge. She said, “The networking was why I liked it so much. That was my favorite part.”
Final projects of the class allowed students to work on a proposal that was presented to the NCAA Men’s Final Four administration. These projects included objectives and goals, the plan and timing itself, and a SWOT analysis. Many students focused on social media as an avenue to promote and market these proposed initiatives.
When asked overall of how the class went, Stallings said, “We give our students as much pragmatic experience as possible. [The class] wouldn’t be just another resume filler, but it would also give them a beneficial experience that would ultimately help them in their careers and future.”
Marrow commented, “I realized how Rice makes it so easy for you to get to know people. You just have to take that opportunity.”
Frank Alfaro III, a senior from Brady, Texas, is majoring in Sport Management.