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Sport management course celebrates global teamwork

01/16/2024 

Exams and term papers serve as the final assignments for most college classes.

But for some students in one SUNY Cortland sport management course, their culminating experience took them more than 4,000 miles across the globe to Lithuania to meet classmates from other countries and learn about sport in a different culture.

“Cross-Cultural Perspectives Abroad in Sport Management” was offered through the SUNY Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Global Network, which connects students and faculty members in different countries for projects, discussions and, in some cases, study abroad experiences.

Cortland students worked throughout the fall semester with classmates at Lithuanian Sport University and JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyväskylä, Finland, learning from professors at all three institutions. For most of the semester, coursework took place in an online capacity through video chats and lectures, including synchronous classes on Mondays.

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The highlight, of course, for Cortland students was a nine-day trip to Lithuania in northeastern Europe from Nov. 24 to Dec. 2.

“Students work hand in hand throughout the entire semester,” said Tara Mahoney, an associate professor of sport management at SUNY Cortland who has led past COIL experiences in Finland and the Netherlands. “Then once we get there, we hit the ground running.”

The international itinerary included morning lectures, facility tours, activities and social events, and a capstone case study competition, which relies on collaborative group work between students from the three countries. Eleven SUNY Cortland students made the trip, along with 15 Finnish students. Seventeen students at Lithuanian Sport University, the host institution, also enrolled.

Among their highlights, Cortland students visited the country’s Olympic Training Center in Druskininkai. They learned from the nation’s director of aquatic sports, which include swimming, diving and water polo. They also attended a Lithuanian Basketball League game featuring ┼Żalgiris, the fan-favorite team of Kaunas, where Lithuanian Sport University is located.

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“It’s a big basketball country, so it was exciting to have that fan-oriented experience,” Mahoney said.

One of the trip’s major goals is to observe similarities and differences in sport across cultures. Mahoney said that many Cortland students noted differences in sport facilities abroad — specifically appreciating the quality of SUNY Cortland’s own buildings and resources.

She said the trip’s payoff is easily seen when international classmates meet in person for the first time, after working together online for several months. 

“What I love, every single time, is just seeing the students interact,” Mahoney said. “They’ve obviously met in a virtual capacity. But then when they get together, they have this special bond that comes with traveling abroad and experiencing a new culture together.”