When Abbie Skladan ’23 traveled to Miami with seven of her fellow Sports Management students in the Communications Fellows program in late February, she had a goal. fun, yes Build camaraderie with classmates, definitely. But there was something else.
During the three-day trip programmed with insightful business meetings, a tour of Marlins Stadium, and a packed afternoon of home games for the Florida Panthers (NHL) and Miami Heat (NBA), Skladan wanted to know if South Florida was a good fit for her — and their professional ambitions.
“I went on the journey with the goal of finding out if this is a city I could imagine living in after college,” she said. “Touring various facilities and then connecting with some of our guest speakers helped me better define what roles I could see myself working in – on a team, league or agency.”
For associate professor of sports management David Bockino, who directs the Communications Fellow program, the first Sport Management Fellows Experience was about fulfilling the three pillars of the program: cohort, experiences and leadership. In fact, much of Bockino’s 2021-22 academic year was spent ensuring that several Fellows cohorts received the professional development and off-campus experiences promised to them as top-flight high school students.
“Unfortunately, COVID really impacted those first two pillars — cohort and experiences,” Bockino said. “That’s why it’s been extra important over the past year that we do everything we can to not only do our normal first-year trips — Atlanta and Florida — but also trips for the other cohorts who missed out on these important bonding experiences.”
With the support of several ElonComm faculty and staff, Bockino organized four adventure trips for seven different Fellows cohorts. In November, Bockino and Colin Donohue, Director of Student Engagement and Special Projects, took the first-year Fellows on the program’s annual media trip to Atlanta. The long weekend included visits to the Dalton Agency, the College Football Hall of Fame, the World of Coca-Cola Museum and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, as well as a Turning 21 Dinner with ElonComm alumni working in the Georgia capital. The visits and meetings gave the students a better understanding of how to work and how to succeed in a large market.
“My experience in Atlanta gave me the opportunity to hear about and see the work that Elon alumni are doing in the real world and in a big city,” recalled Jenna Manderioli ’24. “I value the opportunity to work closely with like-minded students, faculty and staff who support my career endeavors.”
As part of The Fellows Experience, a fall semester course, first- and second-year Fellows alternated week-long visits to media companies and communications organizations in Orlando and Tampa, Florida. The activities were meticulously organized by Alison Doherty, Associate Director of Career Services.
Senior Instructor Hal Vincent oversaw on-site activities in Florida, conducting personal visits to Vū Studio, Diamond View, &Barr, Push., Tampa Bay Lightning, Disney Live Entertainment, Nielsen and a writing workshop at the Poynter Institute. In addition, the cohorts also held virtual sessions with Tupperware Global Headquarters, Digital Brew and WKMG News 6.
On campus, Strategic Communications Instructor Laura Lacy led separate classes, complementing the experiences the students had in the Sunshine State.
“It was a true team effort, from administration to faculty to staff, and somehow we made it through with very few hiccups,” said Bockino.
In February, Bockino led the aforementioned Sport Management Fellows Experience to South Florida, which featured sport management majors from three different grades. In addition to tours and games, the Elon cohort gained insight into the sports industry through meetings with Alfonso Cueto, who works at The Walt Disney Company as Head of Sports Sales in Latin America, and Gustavo Roche, Head of Business Development at Motorsport Games.
“We knew we wanted to offer a professional development experience similar to what communications majors get in Florida,” said Bockino. “Fortunately, we have industry connections as well as alumni working in some great esports organizations across the country — MLB, ESPN, and prominent Division 1 colleges.”
While two previous Sports Management Fellows trips had been canceled due to COVID, the students were resilient and appreciated their insight into Florida’s professional sports industry. “Many students would have been annoyed at how long it would have taken to realize this trip – not this group,” said Bockino. “They couldn’t have been more grateful that Elon never forgot them. The effort was worth it.”
The benefits were obvious to the trip participants. Skladan explained that her stay in Miami was the first time she’s been able to truly connect with other sports management majors in the Fellows program since returning to campus in the fall of 2020. “It was so much fun experiencing Miami together and getting to know each other better,” she said.
Eventually, the Fellows program hosted its first-ever trip to Washington, DC, leveraging the school’s connections in the nation’s capital for its second grade class. The weekend getaway began with an alumni wisdom session for breakfast with WUSA-TV Executive Producer Scott McCrary ’00 and NBC News Field Producer Gary Grumbach ’16.
The students then split by interest and separately visited APCO Worldwide and Capital One Arena, home of the Washington Wizards and Capitals. The APCO visit was coordinated by former Fellow Alex Mancuso ’19, a fellow at Strategic Communications Consulting.
In the afternoon, Washington, DC-based photojournalist Al Drago ’15 took the students on a photo walk down the National Mall. Students worked in pairs and were tasked with creating a postcard-worthy image that highlighted life in the country’s capital. The DC experience concluded with a Turning 21 Celebration at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
“It’s sort of a tradition that we take first-year Fellows to Atlanta, but since nothing was normal for our second cohort, I gave them the Washington, DC option. They were all on board,” said Bockino. “As always, our alumni have achieved great success – particularly Alex Mancuso and Al Drago – as they were able to organize some amazing experiences. And for the students to see true Elon graduates thrive in our nation’s capital is just so rewarding.”
Additional coverage from Kyra O’Connor ’23
This article was first published in the School of Communications Annual Report 2021-22.