David Bockino, Michael Brown ’23 head to Barcelona to present on the benefits of undergraduate research

The associate professor of sport management and Communications Fellow co-presented “The Sports Media Lab: Undergraduate Research as a High-Impact Educational Practice” at the 2023 Summit on Communication and Sport.

Michael Brown ’23 (left) and David Bockino, associate professor of sport management, pose together following the 2023 Sport Management Symposium.

In the span of two months, Elon senior Michael Brown visited three different countries alongside Associate Professor of Sport Management David Bockino, with the pair first traveling as professor and pupil, then again as collaborative researchers.

The first trip was part of Bockino’s Through the Lens of ESPN course held during Winter Term where Brown and 18 classmates explored Argentina and Uruguay. Brown and Bockino then reconnected a few weeks later to co-present at the 2023 Summit on Communication and Sport, hosted in Barcelona by the International Association for Communication and Sport.

Brown ’23 (left) and Bockino speak to audience members attending their presentation at the 2023 Summit on Communication and Sport in Barcelona.

The conference took place from March 9-11 and featured presenters from 18 different countries, sharing sport communication research conducted by academics across the world. During the conference’s second day, Bockino and Brown jointly presented “The Sports Media Lab: Undergraduate Research as a High-Impact Educational Practice,” discussing an innovative undergraduate research initiative designed for students interested in the sports media industry. First, Bockino explained the rationale behind the lab’s creation and the lessons learned during the process. Then Brown presented research from his own study, an exploration of college students’ consumption of short-form action sports content.

Bockino said he considered the project a “test case for the long-term viability of this kind of student-faculty collaboration” to continue at Elon in the future. Additionally, the international experience served as yet another example of the collaborative relationships formed on Elon’s campus between faculty and students.

A cinema and television arts and media analytics double major from Colorado, Brown was initially recruited to campus by Bockino as part of the school’s Communications Fellows program. The two formed a strong bond during Bockino’s Communications in a Global Age course, built on a shared interest in action sports, biking and short-form sports content.

“It means a lot to me that Professor Bockino would be willing to travel halfway across the world to present with me,” Brown said. “One reason I chose to attend Elon University was because of the close-knit connections students and professors have and I was honored to see it play out this way.”

Bockino praised the initiative Brown has displayed since his first day on campus, where he took advantage of many of the university’s experiential programs. In addition to studying abroad and conducting undergraduate research, Brown was also a participant in the Elon in Los Angeles program.

During their Through the Lens of ESPN course, Bockino and Brown tour the museum below Boca Juniors’ “Bombonera” Stadium, one of Argentina’s most famous landmarks.

“Michael is a great student and an even better human being,” Bockino said. “He enjoys learning and is always listening, trying to absorb the material. He was a fantastic representative of Elon and couldn’t have done better with his presentation.”

Brown’s interest in undergraduate research began in fall 2021, when he started investigating how college-aged individuals interact and consume digital action sports content through the use of three focus groups. Once Brown completed his study, Bockino suggested that he submit his findings to the IACS Summit, a setting that fits the scope of his research while also allowing him to present to other academics and sport professionals, the professor explained.

In addition to the project with Brown, Bockino also introduced his upcoming book, “Game On: A Hundred-Year History of Sports Media,” at the conference. The book will be published by University of Nebraska Press in late 2023 or early 2024.

“My book was something that grew out of my work experience at ESPN. Once I started teaching, I realized that nobody had written a general audience history of the sports media industry.” Bockino said. “I thought it would be a fun and fulfilling project and the lab/research was a natural extension of the book. I consider the idea of the Sports Media Lab to be a place where faculty and students can come together to study where the sports media industry has been and where it’s going.”

The proposed Sports Media Lab at Elon aims to offer a unique approach to how undergraduate research is conducted, focusing more on a mutually beneficial relationship with sport industry partners and alumni. The faculty/student collaboration will remain an integral part of undergraduate research, but the proposed plan will incorporate more practical, real-world components.

“How can this research not only teach the student about how the world works but also set them up for professional success in the job market?” Bockino said. “That’s a key aspect of what we’re trying to do.”

He added, “And it all comes down to asking questions about things. Because if you know how to ask a question, devise a method for answering it, and then communicate the results of the study to the relevant people, you’ll be set up for success in all kinds of jobs.”