By Randy York, The N-Sider (First of a 2-part series)
Frauke Hachtmann likes to hit the creativity button whenever she looks at the world and sees something that no one else sees.
A native of Germany, Hachtmann earned Nebraska women’s varsity tennis letters in 1992-93-94-95. Now a professor and associate dean in Nebraska’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications, Hachtmann is on the threshold to oversee a fourth college component.
For decades, UNL has offered degrees in Journalism, Broadcasting and Advertising and Public Relations. Thanks to creative research-driven efforts spearheaded by Hachtmann, Nebraska is planning to offer a fourth module in Sports Media and Communications beginning this fall.
“We’re very excited about adding a new major in Sports Media and Communications, which was just approved by the Board of Regents,” Hachtmann told me last Saturday when nearly three dozen journalism and mass communications students experienced Nebraska Game Day up close and personally. They stood on Tom Osborne Field. They sat inside the Don Bryant Press Box. They even sat on their rears in Ndamukong Suh's Strength and Conditioning Complex so they could hear Mike Riley’s and Husker players’ dissection of the Spring Game.
Let the record show that spearheading a unique major in sports media and communication is not officially a done deal yet. “The next step – and the final step – is approval from the Nebraska Coordinating Commission,” Hachtmann said. “We’ve done our research and don’t anticipate any problems. There are no duplications in our other universities (UNO and UNK).”
A B1G-Darn Deal: Only American University to Offer a Unique Major in Sports Journalism
For that matter, there appears to be no replication anywhere, including the tradition-rich Big Ten Conference. Becoming the only American university to offer a unique major in Sports Media and Communication is a B1G-darn deal. “We’ve done our homework,” Hachtmann said. “We already have a lot of students who are interested in taking Sports Media and Communications as an additional major and others who are hoping that they can switch to that major. We are confident to attract a lot more students to UNL with this unique major, leading to a bachelor or journalism degree from a Big Ten institution.”
SPMC is the abbreviation for Nebraska’s Sports Media and Communication major.
“The idea is to learn about sports from a broader perspective,” Hachtmann said. “Students can learn about sports journalism, sports broadcasting, sports media and sports advertising and marketing. If they want more depth, we don’t know of any other program in the nation that will offer what we’re going to offer.”
That statement describes the essence of creating another first and underscoring a simple fact – four journalistic cornerstones will be decisively superior to the traditional trifecta in place.
“We’re going to do this ‘The Nebraska Way,’” Hachtmann said. “We’ve been teaching sports-related courses as electives for a long, long time. We are always interested in developing new opportunities for our students, and we have students who really want to focus in on sports. We’re ready to teach, learn and advise.”
How did UNL finally solve this priority? “We looked at our existing tried and true sports-related courses and added new cutting-edge courses that will help students to succeed in the profession from day one," she said.
Mosier’s New Media Communications Models Inspire NU's Student Journalism Majors
A sports statistics course will be a primary addition. “Right now, everything is about data, analytics and whatever else goes with it,” Hachtmann said. “That will be a big draw in this major because it will definitely interest and attract employers. We’re really excited about blending expertise because no one else is doing that.”
The new building blocks to Nebraska’s overall approach are creating momentum. “This was our fourth year partnering with Nebraska Athletics on providing students with a behind-the-scenes experience during the spring game,” Hachtmann said. “We brought in students who get matched up to learn from working media and marketing professionals.”
The foundation creates an in-house, over-the-shoulder experience that is up close and personal for students who choose the path.
“They get to see what live action is like and what it takes to report on game day,” Hachtmann said. “The experience is about everything, including fans and getting to network with professionals with job shadowing opportunities.”
Students Look at What It’s Like to Work in HuskerVision or Digital Corn Crib
The college journalism majors’ experience to shadow, watch and listen to HuskerVision workers is unparalleled. HuskerVision is, was and always will be pioneers in an industry that constantly tweaks the overall fan experience through a cavalcade of media.
“Our students can take a big look at what it’s like to work in HuskerVision or in the digital corn crib,” Hachtmann said, pointing out how Huskers.com’s Kelly Mosier studied and still teaches new media communications models extensively. Earning a master’s degree in journalism five years ago, Moser served as Nebraska Athletics’ director of digital communication, and he continues to teach and to share his knowledge.
“Kelly’s an alum who inspires our student journalism majors,” Hachtmann said. “Our students don’t know what to expect, but everything they learn is practical and fun. Seeing the game behind the scenes is so different than what you think it will be. It's exciting for our students to experience a professional setting like the press box to learn what sports writers do during a game and to also see how much work goes into planning and executing fan experiences like the Tunnel Walk, the coin toss and the halftime show."
Before Nebraska journalism students attended Saturday’s Spring Game, Hachtmann asked how many had actually attended a press conference. The answer was no one, and the same applied to sitting in the press box and standing on the field with fans in the stands.
NU Teaching, Learning How to Write, Broadcast, Advertise and Measure Public Relations
The timing for Nebraska journalism to blaze new trails has arrived. UNL still emphasizes teaching and learning how to write, broadcast, advertise and measure public relations. Within a few months, however, Nebraska’s new sports media and communications program is designed to separate UNL from its peers.
The best way to end the good news about Nebraska launching a Sports Media and Communication (SPMC) major is the simple fact that UNL already has hired a leader to help students build the launch pad that will help create and reinforce a new era once it’s approved.
John Shrader, a West Coast-based journalist/teacher with strong Nebraska ties, will help UNL students blaze a new trail in an innovative world.
“There is so much to teach and so much to learn,” Hachtmann said of Shrader, a West Coast-based broadcast journalist who taught at San Jose State University. “He has a very deep knowledge and a passion for college and professional sports and athletes. He’s a perfect fit, and we’re very excited about John coming back home to Nebraska.”
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