What a Team: Division of Athletics, Sport Management Program Provide Real-Life Experience to Students

This newly expanded partnership between the Neag School of Education and Division of Athletics helps students score valuable career-building experience

Samantha Burke and Karina Vital are both sports management students interning in UConn's Athletics Department. (Austin Bigoney/UConn Athletics)

The effective operation of an NCAA Division I athletic department takes thousands of hours by hundreds of people. Whether is it the production of a large-scale game played before a sold out crowd or making sure an Olympic sports team has everything they need for a successful road trip, no detail is too small to be ignored.

UConn students in the Neag School of Education’s Sport Management program are required to engage in internship experiences to graduate and many get a unique opportunity to gain first-hand experience in college athletics through a partnership between the school and the Husky Division of Athletics.

Sport management is a highly-practical field, where hand-on experience through experiential learning is imperative for success after graduation, in addition to classroom studies. Through this collaboration between the Neag School’s Sport Management Program and UConn Athletics, students are able to gain practical experience.

For many years, sport management students at UConn often earned their internship hours right on campus, but this arrangement relied on those familiar with the program to make individual connections within Athletics. This newly expanded partnership between the Neag school and Division of Athletics ensures a systematic approach, providing students information on the internship opportunities available so they can select one that best meets their needs and interests. In return, the Division of Athletics receives valuable support from interns eager to develop their skills and perform important tasks, especially in these times of budgetary concerns.

Each spring and fall semester, anywhere from 40 to 70 sport management students enroll in internship related coursework, with approximately 60% to 75% of those internships hosted within UConn athletics.

student workers working at a home uconn volleyball game holding volleyballs
Ethan Basch ’23 (ED), a senior from Simsbury, Conn., has been a manager for the women’s volleyball team since he was a freshman and his internship is being the senior manager. (Austin Bigoney/UConn Athletics)

An increase in the number of sport management students and the desire to create more opportunities for them at UConn led to this recent collaboration. Jessica Chrabaszcz, UConn executive associate athletic director for competitive excellence and Danielle RoRosa ’09 (CLAS), ’11 (ED), a visiting clinical instructor who leads the sport management experiential program in the Neag School, developed the framework for the program along with Brenna Sarantides ’20 (CLAS), associate director of marketing and digital media in the Division of Athletics. Chrabaszcz had created similar partnerships in previous positions at Yale and Auburn.

While students are performing their internship, they are also enrolled in a course taught by DeRosa, which requires students to create goals and reflect on their learning as part of the internship.

Kinley Stephens ’23 (ED) is currently doing an internship in the Athletics Operations Office and is supervised by a graduate of the sport management program and Assistant Director of Athletic Events and Facilities Jamie Moran ’18 (ED).

“The classroom work and the internship are very complimentary to each other,” says Stephens, who began her college career at UConn Avery Point. “You can only learn how to run an event so much in a class, so having this internship makes it very real.”

Stephens has worked home athletic event for virtually every sport at UConn with duties starting two to four hours before a game.

“We have to make sure the venue is all set up and prepared to host the teams and the fans,” says Stephens. “There are a lot of logistical things to get done. For basketball games, we have to make sure the bench areas are all set up the right way.”

During games, Stephens oversees a group of up to 10 workers who are in charge of such tasks as making sure the court stays clean and safe for the student-athletes.

“I interact with a lot of different people from a lot of different areas in athletics, that I learned about in my classroom work,” says Stephens, who is looking to continue to her career full-time in collegiate athletics operations. “I am so grateful for this opportunity because everything is so interconnected.”

In addition to their internship supervisors, sport management students benefit from the more than 30 UConn sport management alumni that are currently working in the Division of Athletics. Those employees include head coaches, assistant coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, and administrators.

Karina Vital is a second-year master’s student in sport management and her internship is with UConn’s Athletic Marketing Department. She has the lead role for the marketing operations for the baseball and men’s soccer teams and is the game day coordinator for men’s basketball.

“My supervisors in athletic marketing emphasize that academics always comes first and have been incredibly accommodating,” says Vital. “When we get busy with games, we restructure when we do our office hours to make sure we are not overcommitting ourselves to work when it comes to academics.”

student athletes shooting hoops during practice
Max Honafius ’23 (NEAG) is a Stratford, Conn., native, and is a fourth-year student manager with the women’s basketball program, where he also does his internship. (Austin Bigoney/UConn Athletics)

Max Honafius ’23 (ED) is a Stratford native, and is a fourth-year student manager with the women’s basketball program, where he also does his internship.

“The class that really helped me out was in career development, which Danielle (DeRosa) taught,” says Honafius. “We learned a lot of transferable skills, such as creating a good resume and cover letter and how to do well on an interview. We also a weekly reflection on our internship, which helps you reflect on what you are learning and how you are growing.”

DeRosa says the best illustration of the partnership is attending a Husky sporting event in person.

“I love attending games take in an incredible athletic event, but to be able to see out student and alumni in action, from sitting behind the bench as a manger of a team to assisting marketing and promotions during timeouts.”

Samantha Burke ‘ 23 (ED), a native of North Haven, is actually doing three different internships to see what areas of athletics appeal to her the most. She is working in the men’s and women’s basketball equipment room, serves as a game day assistant at basketball contests, and assists with Learfield Sports – UConn’s marketing and corporate sponsorship partner.

“Each area is so different, which is perfect for me,” says Burke, who is considering attending graduate school. “I don’t know exactly what I would like to do, but I know I want to be in the sports field and I am getting great experience.”

Ethan Basch ’23 (ED), a senior from Simsbury, has been a manager for the women’s volleyball team since he was a freshman and his internship is being the senior manager. The number of responsibilities is endless for him – ranging from practice setup, to arranging for meals on the road for the team, to setting up scouting reports for the coaching staff.

“My dream job is to become a high school athletic director someday,” says Basch. “I want to be able to elevate student-athletes and be a mentor to them. Sports is just so fascinating. No two days are the same and when you know you are making a difference it makes it fulfilling and fun.”