The Home Advantage for Sports Media Program
Even before Giancarlo Stanton was introduced to the national media as the newest member of the New York Yankees, Sean Rodriguez '19 saw him in pinstripes. Rodriguez, then a junior, was milling about the lobby of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando last December when Stanton, attired in his Yankee pinstripe jersey for the first time, walked past him on the way to a news conference introducing the slugger as the newest member of the Bronx Bombers.
"It was awesome," says Rodriguez, who was at the Florida hotel attending the Pro Baseball Winter Meetings with three other sports media majors from Susquehanna. "One minute, I'm walking around the lobby, and the next minute, there is Giancarlo Stanton right next to me."
Rubbing elbows with Stanton wasn't the reason that Rodriguez and his classmates were at the Winter Meetings, though. Instead, they were there to rub elbows with potential employers as part of the annual Pro Baseball Job Fair.
It was the second year in a row that four Susquehanna sports media majors attended the event, thanks to the support of Ken '68 and Betsy Selinger and the late John Raab '62. Their generosity enabled four students-Cory Fallon '17, Alexa Gonzalez '19, Kirsten Hatton '19 and Dylan Smith '18-to attend the Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Md., in December 2017, followed by Rodriguez and three classmates-Alex Kurtz '19, Andrew Porzio '18 and Mark Weaver '19- who participated in the event in Orlando this past year.
Of those eight students, the three who have since graduated have all landed positions in the sports media field: Fallon works for Major League Baseball Advanced Media; Porzio is a football production assistant for ESPN in Bristol, Conn.; and Smith is working in the Sports Information Office at St. John's University in Queens, N.Y., where he is also pursuing a master's degree in sports management. Participating in the Baseball Winter Meetings and the associated workshops gave students a taste of what it takes to succeed in sports media and influenced their subsequent job-search strategies.
"It was an eye-opening experience, one that helped solidify what I wanted to do and gave me further clarity on what it would take to put my sports media degree to work," Porzio says.
Adds Smith, "Whether it was attending the Winter Meetings or any of the other opportunities I had at Susquehanna, the fact of the matter is that Susquehanna is giving sports media students the best chance to succeed."
That includes bringing first-class speakers to campus. Last fall, both New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey and WFAN Radio Yankees reporter Sweeny Murti made separate visits to campus, where they took part in student-run video productions that highlighted their careers and their advice for aspiring sports media professionals. Murti also joined several WQSU Radio sports staffers on air for a sports-talk roundtable and spoke to several classes.
"It was a wonderful learning experience interacting with Mr. Murti," says Kirsten Hatton '19, who this year becomes just the second female sports director in the 50-year history of WQSU. "He was very engaging and shared a ton of wonderful insights."
Murti, who has been in sports radio for 25 years, was equally impressed by his experience at SU. "What a thrill it was for me to see the program that has been built there and the excitement that these students bring to their coursework," he says. "I can't wait to meet these kids again at a ballpark or a newsroom down the road."
When SU students reach the press boxes and sidelines, they will be well-trained in everything from video and audio production to print journalism, says David Kaszuba, associate professor of communications and director of Susquehanna's sports media program.
"We've put together a curriculum that gives our sports media majors a foundation that will enable them to excel in a challenging and constantly evolving field. They will know how to tell a story, both visually and in writing. And, as is consistent with a liberal arts education, they'll enter the field knowing that all work-even in an entertainment industry like sports-is enhanced by professional standards, ethical behavior and the forging of meaningful relationships."
Kaszuba added that Susquehanna was just approved by the Association for Women in Sports Media to start a student chapter, in what was a highly competitive application process. Chapters help students learn how to succeed in the industry and grow awareness of the issues that women face in pursuing such careers.
According to fellow faculty member John Foltz '73, professional skillsets and points of view are developed by students not only in the classroom, but also as part of rich cocurricular activities, including working with WQSU radio, The Quill newspaper and the LensFlare video production team. LensFlare students, for example, produce livestreams of many SU sporting events each year, including all home football games and several other sports contests. Students interested in video production also have the opportunity to participate in weekly tapings of Coach's Corner and River Hawk Spotlight, two interview programs that are shot and produced in the university's state-of-the-art video production studio.
"We may be smaller than some of the other sports media programs at other colleges, but we're not taking a back seat with our equipment and facilities," says Foltz, the founder of LensFlare. "Plus, our size gives students a real advantage; they not only receive one-on-one attention, but they aren't asked to wait until their junior or senior year to touch the equipment or get behind the microphone. Students can get involved as much as they want, right from Day One."
Along the way, students are also making connections with SU alumni like Brian Papson '99, vice president of marketing for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. In May, Papson hosted a group of sports media majors for a visit to the team's executive offices and practice facility, as well as a tour of Lincoln Financial Field.
Gian Fabian '20 describes the experience as affirming. "Hearing Brian talk and seeing the Eagles' operation really cemented for me that sports media is the major for me. I am very at home in this major."
The major is home, in fact, for 26 majors presently, including Rave'n-DaJon Coleman '20, who also was on the Eagles trip. As she says, "To network with professionals, to be on radio, to work production for games ... it makes all the possibilities for a career in sports media feel real. It makes things feel within reach."