An avid sports fan, professor Jimmy Smith, Ph.D., was ecstatic last fall when the dean of Niagara University's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management asked if he would chaperone its annual experiential learning trip to the Super Bowl.
Smith's anticipation grew exponentially on Jan. 19 when the Renton, Wash., native's beloved Seattle Seahawks clinched a berth in the NFL's showcase event.
"As the newest sport management professor at Niagara, I was already very excited to have an opportunity to get to know our students better and help them gain invaluable experience at an event of such high magnitude," said Smith, who began teaching sport management courses in marketing, fundraising and revenue management at NU in the fall of 2013. "Being able to do so in the same year that the Seahawks make their second-ever Super Bowl appearance is icing on the cake."
This marks the fifth year in a row NU has sent students to the Super Bowl to work behind the scenes on one of the world's largest stages.
Interested students undergo a fairly rigorous process to be chosen for the trips. Resumes and cover letters are collected, and interviews are conducted to determine which students to take.
On Thursday, the 13 selected students set off with Smith to commence a five-day stay in the New York/New Jersey area.
The students conducted job training Thursday at the Meadowlands and spent Friday night in Times Square participating in the "NFL Boulevard Experience," the league's interactive theme park.
Today will consist of sightseeing and resting up for game day, with the only item on the agenda being the 4:30 p.m. men's basketball game at Rutgers University.
On Sunday, the students will serve in numerous hospitality positions in MetLife Stadium, the $1.6 billion site of Super Bowl XLVIII. More than 82,000 fans are expected to be on hand as Seattle battles Denver for NFL supremacy while an additional 110 million viewers will watch the game on television.
The NU group will return home Monday afternoon, less than 16 hours after the Seahawks or Broncos are crowned champions.
Onsite service-learning experiences are offered regularly by NU's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management. For example, sport management students have recently volunteered during Major League Baseball's spring training and the NCAA Final Four.
Smith possesses a master's degree in sport administration from Central Michigan University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he played Division I baseball. While at Central Michigan, he worked in the athletic department, serving in marketing and development positions. Smith has had articles published recently in the Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics and the Journal of Contemporary Athletics.
Niagara University offers undergraduate degrees in hotel and restaurant management, sport management and tourism and recreation. In addition, an M.S. in sport management is also offered to better prepare graduates for careers in the increasingly competitive sport and recreation industry.
For more information on Niagara University's College of College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, call 716-286-8279 or visit www.niagara.edu/hospitality.