Katherine McDonald, Ph.D., was in a brainstorming session with other editors from the innovative journal Autism in Adulthood and jokingly says that “I made the mistake of having a good idea for a special issue.” The result: McDonald, a professor…
Sport and Human Development Institute Focuses on Experiential Learning, Research
The Sport and Human Development Institute in Falk College explores the intersection of sport with human development, social change and social inclusion. Created in partnership with the U.S Fund for UNICEF, the institute aims to provide professional education and learning opportunities for students while supporting interdisciplinary, sport-focused research to advance understanding and application of sport in this developing discipline. The institute’s initial student experiential learning and faculty research opportunities are made possible with generous support from Falk College donor and Syracuse University alumnus Keith Rubenstein ’86.
Sport is vital to the holistic development of young people by fostering physical and emotional health. It is also a powerful tool to facilitate social integration and tolerance while promoting inclusion, citizenship and respect. Sport for development programs are playing increasingly significant roles in many global humanitarian and charitable organizations because of sport’s ability to highlight commonalities and bridge cultural and ethnic divides.
“The institute aims to collect and disseminate important research findings and to share best practices among leaders, researchers, policy makers and practitioners who influence sport-for-development initiatives,” says Teresa MacDonald, director of the institute and a faculty member in Falk College’s child and family studies and sport management departments. “It also provides exposure, experience and networking for our students interested in professions and nonprofit entities that incorporate sport as a tool for engagement.”
Falk College students are currently working closely with MacDonald to create and implement the first university model for UNICEF’s Kid Power Program to allow kids to get active and save lives in collaboration with fourth and fifth grade students and their teachers at Lemoyne and McKinley-Brighton elementary schools in Syracuse. UNICEF Kid Power (unicefkidpower.org) gives kids the power to save lives. By getting active with the UNICEF Kid Power Band, kids go on missions to learn about new cultures and earn points. Points unlock funding from partners, parents and fans, and funds are used by UNICEF to deliver lifesaving packets of therapeutic food to severely malnourished children around the world. The more kids move, the more points they earn and the more lives they save.
For four weeks ending April 1, six Syracuse University students and two community volunteers are coordinating program events and working with teachers and schools to chart progress, analyze weekly data and evaluate student engagement for future involvement. “For our students in Falk College, this hands-on experience allows them to see directly the impact of sport for development-related initiatives, how they are relevant to their interests and future professions, and how they can create and implement programs in the future to make a difference in the places where they live and work,” notes MacDonald.
Details are forthcoming for Falk College’s Sport for Human Development Institute’s Inaugural Sport Development Symposium that will report on current initiatives in the field. The institute recently launched a Falk College Seed Grant Program to support an interdisciplinary, sport-focused research agenda among Falk faculty. MacDonald is also exploring experiential and research opportunities using sport as a context for development, prevention and intervention.