There is an important change happening to one of the key classes within the Sports Communication and Media (Sports CaM) major here at Rowan University. The course previously called Introduction to Sports Communication will now be known as Sports Communication, Culture & Identity.
The course, which is required for all Sports CaM majors to take, is one of the cornerstone classes in the major, which is why the decision to make this change was an important one.
It was the Sports CaM Coordinator Dr. Emil Stenier and two professors who teach the course, Professor Kate Harman and Dr. Yannick Kluch, who determined not only that there needed to be a change, but what that change would be.
“So Dr. Yanick Kluch, Professor Kate Harman and myself, we sat down…and we all started talking about it,” Steiner said. “What would be the best way to capture the spirit, the identity of this class, and we went through a lot of different names and ultimately we came up with Sports Communication, Culture & Identity, because those are the three core elements I think it addresses.”
Harman echoed the same sentiment, noting that she believed that these are all things that are being taught to the students while taking this class.
“At the end of the day, what we are doing in this class is discussing culture and discussing identity and their impact and how they function within sport,” Harman said. “The name better reflects the course.”
It was not just a random decision by the three of them to realize that the course could use an upgraded name, though. Both Steiner and Harman credit the students for helping them decide to take this step, saying how they were the ones to point out how the course name did not really convey the true content of the course.
“Part of the reason why the name change took place is because of students,” Steiner said, “students giving us feedback and letting us know how they feel about it.”
To both of them, this class is one that goes beyond just introducing students to sports communication; it is one that requires critical thinking and analysis on important topics within sports.
“We talk about how this class is critical, we are bringing a critical perspective to sports communication and that is the goal,” Harman said. “The goal for us, the people who teach this class, is an introduction to critical sports communication.”
This goal is why Harman and Steiner, two originators of the major and this class along with other Rowan staff, created a course that would allow students to use a critical thinking lens while speaking about sports.
“The core learning outcomes, the core philosophies behind it, the critical studies approach to it will certainly remain, and we feel like that is a cornerstone of every Sports CaM major,” Steiner said. “If you only study the broadcasting of it or the journalistic writing of it or how you produce the audio, you are really missing the big picture of what is happening in sports. So I don’t think you can have Sports Communication and Media unless you are also looking at the same time at the culture and identity of Sports Communication and Media.”
This was especially important to Harman though because this was something she wished she had when she was in college.
“I created this class because it was the class I wanted to take when I was at Rowan,” Harman said. “When I was at Rowan, I only took one sports class and it was sports journalism, and I wanted to study sport and I wanted to study sport in this critical way.”
While she might have not gotten a class like this during her days at Rowan, she is now able to give the next generation of sport industry professionals the chance to learn in this important way that she always wanted to.
“It was kind of a dream come true to create this class that I wished that I had,” Harman said. “It was a fun process to go through all of that, so the class is definitely what I always wanted it to be.”
When looking on how she hopes this class will impact students, she isn’t hoping it will change all of their worldviews or anything like that, just that it gets them thinking in this critical way.
“What I hope that the course is doing is I hope it is challenging people’s assumptions, I hope it is making people think,” Harman said. “The goal of the class isn’t to get everyone to think the same way as me and that isn’t Dr. Kluch’s goal either. So I know for the two of us we want our students to think critically, we want them to challenge themselves, and so I hope that is what the class is doing.”
Steiner also noted that there is another key thing that he hopes people get out of the fact that the course is getting a new change: how important student feedback is for the program.
“Part of the reason why the name change took place is because of students, students giving us feedback and letting us know how they feel about it. As a coordinator of this major, one thing I want to get out there is we are a living, breathing this major and it relies on the discourse,” Steiner said. “I really hope they can appreciate that they can give us feedback and let us know and we will listen.”
The course will officially start going by Sports Communication, Culture & Identity at the beginning of the spring 2021 semester.
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