ElonComm students dive deep into research with SURE projects

Sarah Dawkins ’25, Kenny Mallory ’25 and Miles Vance ’24 were among the nearly four dozen students who shared their research on July 19 at the SURE research presentations in McKinnon Hall.

Kenny Mallory ’25 (right), a sport management major, shares his research poster with his teammates on the Elon baseball team at the SURE research presentations on July 19 in McKinnon Hall.

As Sarah Dawkins ’25 began her sophomore year, the economics and sport management double major fully expected to pursue an internship for the upcoming summer. It was a traditional route that made sense.

But during a meeting with her academic adviser, Associate Dean Tony Weaver recommended she give undergraduate research a thought. And the more she considered it, the more appealing the opportunity to dive deeply into a subject became.

Sarah Dawkins ’25 was excited to take on a SURE project this summer because her topic – the impacts of newly constructed sports facilities – combined her two academic pursuits.

A few months later, Dawkins became one of more than four dozen Elon students selected to participate in Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) initiative, where she spent eight weeks researching newly constructed sports facilities and their impact. This year’s SURE program culminated on July 19 with research presentations in McKinnon Hall, a well-attended event that attracted fellow students, faculty, families and community members.

“I enjoyed researching this topic because I thought it was a great way to combine both of my majors,” said Dawkins, standing before her research poster. “I started by looking at economic impacts of newly constructed sporting facilities, but I decided to expand that and look beyond economic impact to economic development and other factors. I really wanted to see how sports – and sports facilities – could impact a community.”

Dawkins said she received great support from her mentors, Assistant Professor of Sport Management Khirey Walker and Weaver, who provided direction when needed. “I really appreciated having two mentors because they were always ready with lots of ideas and lots of help,” she said. “There were a few times I got stuck and they were helpful getting my thinking back on track.”

And, when the opportunity called for it, the mentors helped Dawkins consider a new track.

As she mentioned previously, Dawkins slightly shifted her initial focus on economics to include how new sports venues can increase community visibility, enhance community image, improve psychic income, and stimulate other area development. Additionally, she examined how new stadiums can cause demographic or social change in nearby areas.

“Even if a stadium doesn’t make a huge economic impact, there can be other benefits, and there can be other justifications for that stadium,” she said.

In hindsight, Dawkins said she appreciates the opportunity SURE provided – for several reasons.

“I decided to do this instead of a traditional internship because I thought I could learn a lot and possibly further my career,” she said. “And now, with this on my resume, I might be able to get an even better internship than I could have landed this year.”

Mallory first heard about the SURE program from Assistant Professor Khirey Walker, who later became his research mentor.

And this isn’t the end of her research. Dawkins plans to further investigate the topic of new sports facilities as part of her senior thesis project for economics.

One poster down from Dawkins was Kenny Mallory ’25, who examined athlete-coach mentorship and relationship expectations in a Burlington youth baseball league. His research included conducting 30 semi-structured interviews with parents and coaches. As a baseball player himself – Mallory is a member of the Elon baseball team and played this summer for the Burlington Sock Puppets – he was drawn to the subject. (Mallory has had a successful season on the diamond and was selected for the Appy League All-Star Game.)

“I grew up playing baseball, and this project gave me a chance to see how kids in Burlington are developing now, and what their experiences are,” the sport management major said.

Mallory admitted he was initially intimidated by the research process, but grew comfortable conducting the interviews, and transcribing, coding and analyzing his notes.

Walker commended Mallory for his work over the summer, juggling a research project and his own playing season.

“I was really impressed by Kenny because he has been playing six days a week, but he also did an outstanding job of meeting project deadlines and staying on course. It is a credit to him to take this on during the summer baseball season,” said Walker, who mentored Mallory with Weaver.

In his role as a mentor, Walker said hopes to provide the necessary direction for students to learn and succeed during their research projects. This can be as simple as helping cut through the academic jargon.

Miles Vance ’24, a history and cinema and television arts double major, highlights his poster and project while talking to a visitor during the July 19 SURE research presentations.

“SURE is a wonderful opportunity to open the eyes of undergraduate students to the benefits of research,” Walker said. “But sometimes there is an intimidation of the research process. Research is hard. And I just try to be there to help the students maximize the experience. To walk them through the experience. And when they stumble, I’m there to help pick them up, dust them off, and put them back on track.”

The SURE research presentations featured majors and academic programs from across the campus. This included Miles Vance ’24, a history and cinema and television arts double major, who researched Victorian nautical fiction, investigating the motivations and impacts of the Victorian authors within the constructs of British imperialism, industrialization and nationalism.

The project examined three novels: Frederick Marryat’s “Mr. Midshipman Easy,” G.A. Henty’s “By Courage and Conduct,” and Harry Collingwood’s “A Middy of the King.” As part of his research, Vance read and analyzed the stories, paying special attention to the plot, protagonists, antagonists and depictions of social order.

Vance was mentored by Professor Michael Carignan of the Department of History and Geography.

SURE program

The Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) is the signature program Elon offers undergraduates and mentors to devote time and resources to research in fields they are passionate about. Summer offers the opportunity to progress work without the distractions of campus life during the academic year. SURE provides students a $3,000 stipend for full-time work with faculty on projects that can extend across multiple years and lead to publications and conference presentations.