Sports Communication Research Opportunities
Communication Research Methods Course Provides Inspiration and Skills
At first glance, a research methods course might not appear to be an exciting part of a college curriculum, but for students and faculty at Marist, it has provided new opportunities. Dr. Ryan Rogers, Assistant Professor of Communication, has begun collaborating with both students and faculty on research projects pertaining to the world of communication.
It started in Spring 2015, where Avery Decker ’16, an intern for the Center for Sports Communication, expressed interest in undertaking a research project and his internship director, Professor Strudler, referred him to Dr. Rogers. “At that point, we realized we had similar interests and Ryan was willing to work with me and another student on different research projects,” Decker said. That other student was Anna Grazulis ’17, a student of Dr. Rogers.
“I was taking Communication Research Methods with Dr. Rogers and although it wasn’t my favorite, I was pretty good at it and learned a lot,” Grazulis explained. She was surprised when he reached out to her to help him with his latest project. She went on, “It seemed pretty interesting and I knew it wouldn’t hurt to try out a new part of the huge world that is ‘communications,’ so I told him I would be glad to help.”
Grazulis and Decker teamed up with Dr. Rogers to use Google Glasses to form a qualitative study on using the device as a means of augmented reality to enhance the in-person viewing experience at sporting events. Grazulis explained how they formed their research. “We started with a problem: couchgating,” she said. “Essentially, people don’t want to go to stadiums anymore because they are having better experiences at home.” The three used Google glasses to see if people preferred viewing games through the glasses, using their smartphones, or by using media guides. The goal was to figure out ways in which teams could get fans back into stadiums and enjoy it just as much, if not more, than being at home.
These projects took much time and dedication from the three. They would spend up to six hours a week compiling their research, including preliminary and closing writing, literature reviews, formulating a research question, building surveys, and gathering the presentation materials. Their Google Glass study was presented at the Sports Technology Summit at Marist last March and has been submitted for presentation at the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) summit in Las Vegas for March 2016. The two are also working with Dr. Rogers on a new project about virtual reality. “It’s basically something totally different than augmented reality,” Grazulis said. “Do people enjoy virtual reality vs. actual reality? That’s what we’re trying to find out.”
These projects have allowed Decker and Grazulis to learn important skills outside of the regular classroom. Dr. Tim Mirabito, Assistant Professor of Sports Communication, believes that research is vital to an academic setting because it informs teaching and learning. “Empirical research specifically allows the researcher to explore phenomena and develop an expertise in an area,” he explained. “You essentially take ownership of that topic and I think that it increases the investment.” Decker credits Dr. Rogers with helping him learn how to present, source, and formulate targeted research questions while Grazulis attributes her being able to make a difference in the world of sports to the professor.
Dr. Mirabito has conducted his own research, separate from that of Dr. Rogers’. His greatest area of interest is the role of sports in adverse/crisis scenarios and language use with regards to people with disabilities. He realized the value of involving undergraduate students in his research, which is why he asked Dr. Strudler if he could help facilitating those opportunities. “Sometimes the term ‘research’ can carry a negative connotation among the younger generation,” Mirabito said. “It’s one of the most rewarding things to introduce young people to the possibilities that research presents and have them really embrace the process.” For the past two years, he has worked with students on projects that were presented at national academic conferences in New York City and South Carolina.
Dr. Mirabito has also assisted several of Dr. Strudler’s teams that competed in the College Sports Research Institute’s case study that is held every year. These students have gone on to place in the Top 3 each time, and one group was even praised for their research by a top scholar in sports media while another group was approached about publishing their findings in a peer-reviewed journal. “There are so many benefits to students participating in these projects,” he said. “They can talk about it and champion those topics both in and out of class and it could help them in their jobs or getting into grad schools. A lot of good comes from it.”
Written by Adriana Belmonte '17
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