The Southern Ohio Copperheads based in Athens, Ohio has an in-built model of student volunteerism - a ‘learning laboratory’. Almost entirely run by student volunteers from the university’s sports management program, roughly 60 of the program’s 400 undergraduates are part of the team’s staff at any one time. Responsibilities include everything from sponsorship and ticket sales to fan engagement and merchandise for at least 21 regular-season games every summer.
The Learning Lab
Annie Brackley, Ohio University College of Business’ Associate Director of Sport Career Placement and VP of Business Operations for the Copperheads describes the organizational structure: “The Copperheads are fully run by students with the oversight of myself as well as community board members, who have a limited role. Business owners, professionals, university staff - all in all it’s a brilliant model and serves as a learning lab for students to understand the essentials of front office management for a professional sports team.”
Brackley says that the team serves as an ideal model for student volunteerism, as it gives them the chance to ‘buy in’ to an organization offering relevant career training while also providing an important social service for the local community. As a learning lab the students see and feel the impact of every decision they make.”
Within that learning lab are three pillars that bolster not only volunteer engagement, but also retention:
Courses at Ohio University are designed to encourage volunteer experiences. Students who take on senior leadership roles with the Copperheads may be eligible for course credit, something also done with the NCAA Athletics program at the university.
Recreate vocational conditions
If a student has an idea and wants to run a promotion they should have a business case for it - if it makes business sense it will be implemented. Knowing that they’re having an impact on the organization is empowering for students.
Build career pathways into the volunteer experience
There is a close alliance with the Copperheads and the University athletics department. As a result, Copperheads alumni have gone on to secure jobs at prestigious organizations like the Cleveland Indians and San Antonio Spurs.
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