During the past two years, the sport and event management and business management double major has examined the reasons why collegiate athletic departments have decided to reclassify to Division I.
When discussing Kelly Siewers ’17, who was recently named an Elon University Provost Scholar, Associate Professor Tony Weaver doesn’t hide his admiration for his research mentee.
“She isn’t afraid to take on more – to learn more, to do more and to try and understand an issue better. That’s just a natural thing for her to do,” said the chair of the Sport and Event Management Department. “She has participated in a lot of different activities, and she’s always done it at the highest level. She’s done everything I think Elon wants a student to accomplish.”
Since summer 2014, Siewers – a sport and event management and business management double major – has explored why collegiate athletic departments are increasingly interested in reclassifying to Division I, advancing a topic her mentor, Weaver, also studied.
Titled “Uncovering the Rationale: A Document Analysis of Reclassification to Division I,” her research has led to multiple presentations, including stops at the 2015 SURE Conference, 2015 NCAAHPERD Convention and SURF Day in April 2016. Siewers and Weaver are also in the process of writing a manuscript of the research project for submission to a scholarly journal.
In appreciation of her continued studies, Siewers was one of 12 undergraduates named a Provost Scholar, a new Elon University recognition celebrating excellence in mentored undergraduate research. The acknowledgement also champions the strong student-faculty relationships that develop during the research process.
Established in 2016, the Provost Scholars wall is located on the first floor of the Alamance Building. An inscription on the wall reads: “Mentored undergraduate research not only deepens the intellectual experience of students but strengthens the intellectual community from which its springs.”
Siewers’ findings, which looked specifically at 22 public universities, indicated that institutions reclassified to Division I for various reasons, including increased visibility and recognition, financial benefits, and better-perceived alignment with the philosophy and mission of Division I athletics.
“It really comes down to revenue streams,” she said. “Universities think that moving to Division I will boost their financial revenue streams – ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, different media outlets, television revenues, etc.”
The topic of college athletics has always interested the Glen Allen, Va., native, likely because she’s had an insider’s view. Siewers was a well-regarded high school athlete in soccer and basketball, and she continued her soccer career at Elon.
“It was interesting looking at the other side of athletics, behind the door of the athletic departments,” she said. “We looked specifically at public schools because that’s the information we could find online and through their libraries.”
Unfortunately, Siewers’ soccer career came to an abrupt conclusion following three severe concussions, including one sophomore year that forced her out of school for five weeks and off the pitch for eight months. Then, during her junior year, she was sidelined with a third concussion, which eventually led her to stop playing. “At that point my doctors told me it wasn’t worth the risk,” she said. “They didn’t know what would happen if I sustained another concussion.”
While Siewers faced a disheartening decision, Weaver recalled the senior handled the process with maturity and determination – traits she’s always displayed.
“The wonderful part about Kelly is that she has been balancing the student-athlete life since she got here,” he said. “She’s always been an excellent student, and she happened to be a great soccer player, too. She’s balanced both from the beginning. And she continued to balance her academics despite the physical issues she was having. I think it was that skill – that balance – that made her a tremendous soccer player and one of our best students.”
Whether it’s her playing career or academic research, Siewers enjoys seeing an undertaking to the end. This year, she is serving as a student assistant coach, working with the team’s goalkeepers. Likewise, she continues to look for avenues to expand her research and is excited about the idea of publishing her findings.
“It’s safe to say this research project has gone beyond my expectations,” she said. “It’s been such a rewarding experience starting a project and ultimately seeing it to the finish. None of it would have been possible without Dr. Weaver though. I cannot thank him enough for his mentorship and all the invaluable instruction he has provided me.”