Articles

Sport and Entertainment Management Students Soak Up Business Culture and Historic British Tradition During Six-Day Trip

By Keith Morelli

Students listening to tour guide

TAMPA (December 6, 2017) -- In a country steeped with history and culture and in a city that is at the forefront of the global business scene, 24 graduate students from the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business got a first-hand look at work and life in the United Kingdom during a whirlwind six-day trip last month.

The Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program's entire Class of 2018 toured a sport entertainment agency, the lush green grounds of Wimbledon and even attended an England versus Germany soccer match.

They also experienced life in London. Riding the London Underground, watching the opening of the gates at the Tower of London, checking out the Crown Jewels and sampling a wide variety pubs and restaurants along the way. They attended a sports management symposium in Worcester and took in the historic Alexandra (Ally Pally) Palace.

The trip – the first for the graduate program – was part of the vision of program founding Director Bill Sutton.

"It was in my five-year plan," he said. "This is the sixth year, so I guess it was time."

Students paid their own airfare to and from London, while the program, which awards graduates MBAs and master's degrees in sport and entertainment management, picked up the rest of the tab for the mid-November, study-abroad trip.

"I wanted them to expand their world view," Sutton said. "The students not only saw how the world operated outside the United States, but they also embraced the opportunity to see and do things differently; whether it was on the cricket pitch or listening to a marketing case presented by London professionals."

Formal sessions included a trip to Octagon, one of the world's largest marketing agencies with more than 30 years' experience in sports marketing, sponsorship and athlete and talent representation, where analysts presented a marketing case to the group for discussion.

James Chaudry, a graduate student in the Class of 2018 who will graduate in May, is from the UK. He developed the itinerary for the trip.

"The overall goal was for the students to see as many different sports properties and agencies as possible as well as having a cultural experience," he said. He had come up with four different itineraries and often had to switch plans midstream because of scheduling issues. Still, he said, the trip was a success and the buzz about next year's trip with the Class of 2019 already has begun.

He said the group and the program impressed the UK hosts.

"They don't have anything like this over there," he said of the program, which prides itself on providing students with a wide range of intern opportunities and strives to achieve a 100 percent placement rate of students after graduation.

The most impressive part of the trip, Chaudry said, was touring Wimbledon, where a tour guide delivered a talk that stretched from the grandeur of the venue to the smallest detail, like his estimation that there were 48 million blades of grass on the courts.

"He was brilliant," Chaudry said. "He talked about what Wimbledon was and what it stood for and what goes on behind the scenes. It was definitely a highlight of the trip."

Meeting with IBM analytics engineers to talk about the future of artificial intelligence and data analytics also was a big takeaway for the students, he said.

On the cultural side, Chaudry said, an early morning visit to the 1,000-year-old Tower of London to witness the ceremonial opening of the gate by the Yeoman Warders was a memorable scene.

Program Assistant Professor Janelle Wells, who teaches global environment of sport and social media in sport, accompanied the students on the trip.

"They grew," she said. "They learned from and with one another."

The hope is that an overseas trip will become a yearly event. London likely will be the destination next year, but Sutton also is thinking about taking a class to a country where English is not the primary language; Spain, perhaps, or Argentina.

Students, some of whom sported local gear, like Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Rays shirts and hats as well as the USF Bulls apparel, took selfies of themselves along the way, including times when they were relaxing, being tourists. For that, free time was worked into the schedule.

After the USF-sanctioned portion of the trip, some students went to Edinburgh and some to Dublin, Sutton said.

"Others took in tennis matches. Roger Federer was playing there that week," Sutton said. "And others went to stage productions. These things are just as important as attending a sports seminar or listening to lectures on sports management."

One such event, the Future of Sport Symposium on Global Sport Business Education at the University of Worcester, featured Sutton as the keynote speaker and several USF students as panelists bringing their experiential projects to life. Prior to the symposium, USF students and faculty competed against Worcester students and staff in various athletic events for charity.

Though the Brits may have had an edge in handball and cricket, Sutton said, the USF team buried them in an old-fashioned game of hoops.

"This trip," he said, "actually was everything I had hoped for."