Engaging university students in sport for development and peace
In many ways, university students are the future of sport for development and peace (SDP). This next generation will advance ideas, projects and programs as practitioners, policymakers, advocates and educators. Undergraduate and graduate students need opportunities to learn about and get involved with SDP. Students need to explore their interests, ask questions, and engage SDP in meaningful ways through coursework, research, internships, and fellowships.
Numerous universities offer sport management programs whose purpose is to train future sport managers. Traditionally built on sport marketing, sport finance, and facility/event management coursework, these programs often focus on managing professional sport, intercollegiate sport, and major multi-sport events. The sport industry is much broader, however, and students need to be exposed to managing other types of sport activities, including SDP. Sport management academic programs could promote this effort by offering classes in SDP, infusing SDP examples and case studies in regular coursework, or through experiential service-learning classes dedicated to an SDP activity. Being interdisciplinary, SDP can of course also reside across the university in different departments such as international relations, public health, education, history, sociology, or economics.
Students can also engage in SDP through research. SDP is generally under-researched although this is beginning to change. Some scholars and their students focus their research on SDP-related topics such as measurement and evaluation. Universities need to provide students with opportunities to publish their research and attend SDP, Sport Management, or related discipline meetings and conferences to share their work, so others become aware of their innovative scholarly activity.
Internship opportunities for University students exist at local, national or international levels. They provide students hands-on experiences and opportunities to put what they have learned in their coursework into action while acquiring on-the job skills. No classroom can replace the hands-on experience of an internship. Securing an SDP internship allows students to immerse themselves in cultural, managerial, and environmental aspects of that setting. They can observe decision makers solving problems while honing their critical thinking skills. SDP internship settings range from working with organizations in countries around the world addressing social issues such as gender equity or conflict resolution to helping with an immigrant/refugee soccer league in the university’s home city.
Fellowship opportunities in SDP settings for university students are currently limited, but we strongly encourage creating new opportunities to support university students to engage in SDP. Universities can work to establish small fellowship initiatives for students wishing to form a scholarly learning community. Additionally, external fellowship opportunities can develop further interest in supporting the SDP field. For example, the U.S. Department of State Fulbright Fellowship focuses on “international education and exchange,” and provides “mutual understanding through people-to-people exchanges that can lead to a more peaceful and prosperous world.” The Fulbright program, “offers research, study and teaching opportunities in over 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students.” A handful of university students have received Fulbright fellowships to do work related to SDP, but currently no specific SDP Fulbright track or theme exists. Perhaps this could be an opportunity for future engagement to support the next generation.
University students engaging in SDP coursework, research, internships and fellowships have opportunities to foster mentorship, create pathways, and build the next generation of leaders in the SDP space. Coursework builds foundational knowledge, research allows for introductory exploration, internships provide experience, and fellowships provide funding, community and distinction.
Existing SDP organizations should prioritize engagement with undergraduate and graduate students as an investment in the future of SDP. Bridging the gap between SDP academics and NGO communities in order to develop future SDP leaders will propel the SDP movement forward.
Eli A. Wolff directs the Power of Sport Lab, a platform to fuel and magnify creativity, diversity, connection and leadership through sport. Eli is also an instructor with the Sport Management program at the University of Connecticut and is co-founder and advisor to the Sport and Society initiative at Brown University. His work has been at the intersection of research, education and advocacy in and through sport, with a focus on sport and social justice, diversity, disability and inclusion. Eli has co-founded Disability in Sport International, Athletes for Human Rights, the Olympism Project, and Mentoring for Change.
Mary A. Hums, Ph.D. is a Professor of Sport Administration at the University of Louisville. Hums has co-authored/co-edited 5 Sport Management textbooks, over 150 articles and book chapters and made over 200 presentations to various scholarly associations both in the United States and abroad. Her main research interest is policy development in sport organizations, especially in regards to inclusion of people with disabilities and also sport and human rights.