Marci VanDrese ’11 stands
on hallowed ground at the Packers' Lambeau Field.
Intern experience takes student behind the scenes at Sport and Society conference
Armed with her first media credentials, office of communications intern Marci VanDrese ’11 had an inside look at the college’s recent conference “A Mirror of Our Culture: Sport and Society in America.” She offers color commentary on her crash course in reporting and the sporting life.
I was in the right place at the right time. As a senior communications major, I had worked in the office of communications for almost two years when, in May, I was given media credentials to attend the first-of-its-kind sport and society conference on campus and at Lambeau Field.
The communications office had been busy for weeks; signs and posters were stacked high and campus buzzed in preparation for the three-day event. My first professional conference was a crash course in sports history, literature, law, psychology, communications, education and leadership. My mission was to assist in any way I could with the conference and capture audio of a few presenters.
Paul Tagliabue, the first keynote speaker and former NFL commissioner, was Wednesday’s news headline. He spoke of sports as a way to self-awareness, self-improvement and, most of all, leadership.
The breadth of subject matter offered at the conference likewise went beyond playing ball to include business, gender issues, media relations, religion and more. In my first session, I heard the co-authors of “The Lombardi Legacy” (which is now on my Christmas list), Royce Boyles and former Packer Dave Robinson. They offered my first bit of history about the great Packers coach.
Later at lunch, the Rev. Dr. Rowland De Peaux, O.Praem., ’48 continued the history lesson; his insider look into Lombardi’s life helped all of us appreciate the coach’s legacy of generosity and leadership.
And by the way, the last thing I expected was that I would find myself at the same table as St. Norbert president Thomas Kunkel for lunch. (Make that two college presidents; keynote speaker Robert Kustra, president of Boise State University, was also seated with us, along with academic dean Michael Marsden and his wife, Mary, and the vice president of our division, Bridget Krage O’Connor ’93.)
I boarded the shuttle to Lambeau Field early Thursday morning. Walking into Lambeau’s atrium is one of my favorite things to do; I’ve only been to Lambeau a handful of times and am still amazed when I enter. (I can’t imagine what it’s like during game time.)
That morning’s sessions featured two panels of experts in psychology and law.
The first panel discussed the challenges of being a professional athlete on and off the field. The panel of lawyers discussed five current issues in sports: gender equity in collegiate athletics; judicial review of league drug-testing policies; antitrust review of league licensing agreements; athletes’ rights to their image and likeness; and social media.
I came to realize the pressure on athletes and teams not only to perform well, but also to adhere to the legal, social and health demands that accompany their status.
In the afternoon, my editor and I took advantage of the opportunity to tour the stadium and the Packers Hall of Fame. I was just as excited as conference attendees from Nebraska, Illinois and New York to see what Lambeau Field had to offer.
Back at St. Norbert, the last day of the conference opened with sports journalist Kevin Blackistone addressing issues of race and sports, ahead of his trip to South Africa to cover the World Cup.
Wrapping up my conference experience were sessions on youth and sports, and on sports and communication. Carolyn Schaeffer (Education) presented on childhood obesity and society’s acceptance of distorted portion sizes, fast food meals, an unhealthy consumption of soda and a lack of physical activity.
The sports and communication session focused on image repair, women’s empowerment and societal views on disability and athleticism. It referenced several current media issues in portraying athletes and sports to the public.
As a student at St. Norbert, I felt proud of the college for initiating this conference. Scholars from all over the country gathered to exchange ideas, present research, and share thoughts on important issues in sports. And thanks to my internship, I had an inside view at my first professional conference.