UConn Sport Management Faculty/Student Presentation at NASSS Conference

UConn Sport Management Faculty/Student Presentation at NASSS Conference

The North American Society for the Sociology of Sport holds an annual conference in varying locations. This year the conference was a held in the delightful town of Santa Fe and took the thematic approach of Sports at / on the Borderlands: Translations, Transitions, and Transgressions. From November 4th through the 7th sport sociologists gathered to share ideas, see old friends, and make new connections. Every year the conference plays host to a number of young scholars and well-seasoned faculty members to congregate and share ideas ranging from Environmental, racial, gender, youth, violence, current events, and new / old media the conference provides something of interest for everyone.

Representing from the University of Connecticut’s Sport Management program we had Dr. Joseph Cooper and first year masters student Charles Macaulay. Charles and Dr. Cooper collaborated and presented a piece discussing the challenges and processes researchers face and should use when working with racially similar and dissimilar ethnic groups. Using poststructuralist theory to examine the socially constructed nature of racial identities we posed an approach for disengaging institutionally imposed racial identities with the hopes of providing participants an opportunity to articulate their own identities in academic research.

In addition, Dr. Cooper presented two pieces discussing the prominence and downfall of the Negro Leagues and gave a presentation on Collective Uplift. Every presentation was well attended and received ensuring UConn was once again well represented. Hopefully in the coming years we can increase our presence at NASSS as it is a wonderful opportunity to expand networks and share ideas that are pertinent across the athletic world.

Hand in Glove: UConn Surgeon Brings Healing Hands to Boxing

Dr. Cato Laurencin is extensively involved in mentoring underrepresented students and young doctors. Here he addresses participants in the CICATS Young Innovative Investigator Program. (UConn Health Photo)

Hand in Glove: UConn Surgeon Brings Healing Hands to Boxing

Courtesy of UConn Today, written by Kristen Cole

After famed boxer Mike Tyson defeated Buster Mathis in the third round of a 1995 bout, the former heavyweight champion of the world waited for the referee to call the match, then hugged his contender.

Just a few feet away, Tyson’s ringside doctor witnessed this simple gesture between the two men, who moments before had vied for the heavyweight title by delivering each other blows.

That doctor was Cato Laurencin, now University Professor, Albert and Wilda Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, and director of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering at UConn.

Laurencin has worked as a ringside doctor for the past two decades. In August, he traveled to Venezuela as the physician for the USA Boxing Elite Men’s National Team for the American Boxing Confederation Championships.

“I’ve always loved the sport and the personalities,” he says. “Boxing teaches sportsmanship – the lessons for life are incredible.”

For Laurencin, who uses his hands for healing, his interest in a sport that uses hands for fighting has many motivations, one of them being the camaraderie that exists in much of professional boxing and in amateur boxing.

“In the amateur ranks,” he says, “the first thing boxers often do at the end of a fight is hug each other, then go to each corner and give thanks to their coaches, then the referee.”

Boxing, he notes, has a positive influence on young people. Those participating in the sport are encouraged to stay in shape and stay away from drugs and alcohol. The rigor of training helps instill in them a positive work ethic.

“Boxing could be a savior to folks in the inner city,” he says.

Laurencin volunteers as a doctor for amateur boxers as well as professional ones, facilitating a sport that provides direction for young athletes. At UConn Health, he provides direction for students and young doctors. He is extensively involved in mentoring underrepresented students, demonstrating a dedication that earned him a Presidential Award for Excellence from President Barack Obama.

A Black man who earned degrees from Princeton, MIT, and Harvard Medical School, and whose curriculum vitae includes nine single-spaced pages of awards, Laurencin is undeniably a role model.

His road to medicine began in his family’s row house in North Philadelphia, where his mother operated a clinical practice and research laboratory out of the first floor.

He refers to himself as a “surgeon-scientist” – pursuing both the clinical work that allows him to interact one-on-one with families, and performing the cutting-edge research that recently led to his receipt of the prestigious National Institutes of Health Pioneer Award. Just a few years ago, National Geographic hailed Laurencin’s research into the regeneration of ACL tears – one of the most common knee injuries – among the “Scientific Discoveries of the World.”

Like his role at the operating table, being ringside doctor is a post that comes with a lot of responsibility. Laurencin has the authority to determine whether an injured fighter can continue a bout – in essence, whether to stop the fight.

“My role is to ensure the safety of the boxer,” he says. “That’s why I’m there.”

Research Focus: Excellence Beyond Athletics: Best Practices for Enhancing Black Male Student Athletes’ Educational Experiences and Outcomes

Research Focus: Excellence Beyond Athletics: Best Practices for Enhancing Black Male Student Athletes’ Educational Experiences and Outcomes

UConn Sport Management Department Assistant Professor Joseph Cooper recently presented at the inaugural Black Student Athlete Conference at the University of Texas, a three-day summit from January 7-9, 2015 hosted by The African American Male Research Initiative (AAMRI) and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.


The summit was a three-day gathering to openly examine and candidly discuss the numerous and complex issues surrounding the black student-athlete and was attended by scholars, coaches, conference commissioners, athletic directors, academic advisors, student affairs professionals, principals, present and former student-athletes, journalists and others.


Dr. Cooper’s presentation was titled: “Excellence Beyond Athletics: Best Practices for Enhancing Black Male Student Athletes’ Educational Experiences and Outcomes” and received coverage in the Diverse Issues in Higher Education news.


Presentation Abstract:

Postsecondary institutions in the United States (U.S.) including member institutions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are charged with the responsibility of cultivating positive learning environments where all students have an opportunity to excel regardless of their demographic backgrounds (e.g., race, socioeconomic status, etc.).  However, one subgroup of students that these institutions have persistently been unable to retain and graduate at rates comparable to their peers is Black male student athletes.

Previous research has cited unwelcoming campus climates, inadequate academic support, and an overemphasis on athletics as key factors that contribute Black male student athletes’ academic underperformance and negative psychosocial experiences at these institutions. As a result, the purpose of this presentation is to present a series of strategies and recommendations for enhancing Black male student athletes’ educational experiences and holistic development at postsecondary institutions in the U.S.

A review of scholarly literature on Black male student athletes, college student development theories, and student athlete support programs was conducted to identify best practices related to the phenomena.  An analysis of the literature led to the creation of the Excellence Beyond Athletics (EBA) approach.  The EBA approach consists of the following six holistic development principles (HDPs): 1) self-identity awareness, 2) positive social engagement, 3) active mentorship, 4) academic achievement, 5) career aspirations, and 6) effective time management skills.

For more information on this presentation or to discuss this topic in further detail, please contact Dr. Joseph Cooper.

Strategic Alliance Analysis: Special Olympics

L-R: Jon Paul St. Germain, Senior Director – Unified Sports & Sport Partnerships; Michael Mudrick (UConn doctoral student), Aldis Berzins, Special Olympics International; Dr. Laura Burton, UConn Associate Professor – Sport Management.

Strategic Alliance Analysis: Special Olympics

This past summer, members of the UCONN Sport Management program (Michael Mudrick, doctoral student, Raymond Cotrufo, Ph.D. UCONN ’14, and Laura Burton, Associate Professor) partnered with the UCONN School of Business SCOPE program (Sustainable Community Outreach and Public Engagement) and the Special Olympics for a project involving an examination of strategic alliances.

Through an extensive analysis, the research team discovered opportunities for the Special Olympics to achieve several goals as ancillary benefits from the procurement and continuance of successful partnerships. These goals included: augmented awareness of the Special Olympics brand, program relationship building, and additional participation opportunities for its athletes.

On September 30, 2014, the research team presented results of the project to Jon-Paul St. Germain, Senior Director of Unified Sports and Sport Partnerships and Aldis Berzin, Senior Director of Sport of Special Olympics and SCOPE program director, Wynd Harris, with a best practices guide toward strategic alliance success. In addition, the research team proposed an application model to be utilized for analyses of partnership benefits and value.

Research Focus: The Transfer Effect – A Critical Race Theory Examination

Research Focus: The Transfer Effect – A Critical Race Theory Examination

On November 6, 2014, t the most recent conference for the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) in Portland, Oregon, UConn Sport Management Department Assistant Professor Joseph Cooper presented a paper titled “The Transfer Effect: A Critical Race Theory Examination of Black Male Transfer Student Athletes’ Experiences”, focusing on the understanding of the role of race and racism in the experiences of Black male transfer student athletes who attended a predominantly White institution (PWI) and subsequently transferred to a historically Black college/university (HBCU).


Publication Abstract:


The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences of Black male student athletes who transferred from predominantly White institutions (PWls) to a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) in the southeastern United States (U.S.). This qualitative case study involved a single focus group interview and two individual interviews with Black male transfer student athletes who were enrolled at a HBCU. Critical race theory (CRT) was applied as a theoretical framework to examine the impact of race and racism on the participants’ experiences within different educational and sociocultural environments.


The key research topics of interest included identifying the participants’ reasons for transferring from a PWI to a HBCU and understanding their college experiences at the HBCU. Findings revealed participants’ encounters with various forms of covert and overt racism at PWls resulted in negative college experiences, which motivated them to transfer to a HBCU. Using tenets of CRT and a thematic analysis procedure, the following two emergent themes were identified: “We Were the Outcasts” and “They Want to See You Succeed.” Implications for policy and practice are discussed.


For more information on this paper, please contact Dr. Joseph Cooper.