The race for Special Olympics
10 students plan and fundraise for a day at the NASCAR track for Special Olympics athletes
Central Michigan University sport management students took learning beyond the classroom this spring by planning, fundraising and organizing a trip to Michigan International Speedway for 36 Special Olympics athletes.
As part of a semester-long project, Nick Williams, a physical education and sport faculty member, assigned students in PES 180, Sports Management Governance and Organizational Theory to create strategic plans for a trip to the Brooklyn, Michigan, speedway.
Williams offered 10 students from the course the chance for a field study: Take the plans and make the trip happen.
The students hosted fundraising events throughout the spring semester, secured sponsorships and coordinated with the two organizations to plan for the visit. In addition to funding the trip, they raised $6,000 for Special Olympics Michigan.
"This event is something most of the athletes would never otherwise have the opportunity to experience. It's truly a once-in-a-lifetime chance to attend a NASCAR event and go behind the scenes in a unique way," said Aaron Mills, senior director of marketing and communications at Special Olympics Michigan.
This wasn't the first time CMU students brought Special Olympics athletes to the speedway. Williams filled in for a semester of the sport management capstone class in 2017, where he used his CMU alumni connections at both organizations to make the opportunity available.
After that semester, he wanted to keep the project going. The result was the field study, which offered sophomores and juniors the same hands-on learning experience that students in the senior capstone course had received.
There's a reason CMU's sport management alum are scoring jobs within the sports industry and across the country. All students are required to have an internship and a field study experience — a key factor to finding a job in the sports industry.
"These students are putting their stamp on the world. They're going to walk out of this experience with a great background that sets themselves from other in the industry. It's all about experience and all about connections," Williams said.
Serving the Special Olympics Community
Central Michigan University recent connections to Special Olympics include community volunteers, student internships and class projects. Over the past several months:
- Thirty-five students from the Sarah R. Opperman Leadership Institute helped train Michigan high school students to present Unified Sports Day.
- Special Olympics Michigan employed several CMU interns to help the State Summer Games run smoothly May 30-June 1.
- In March, CMU Police Sgt. Riley Olson represented CMU at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates