New sports residence program connects professionals with CoJMC students

New sports residence program connects professionals with CoJMC students

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 - 4:15pm

by Molly Roe

The University of Nebraska College of Journalism and Mass Communications (CoJMC) is piloting a new initiative, the Roper Sports Reporter in Residence, to enhance the college’s growing sports program this fall. Professionals in the sports reporting field will visit CoJMC students weekly to answer questions and have meaningful discussions about issues in the field. 

Interim Dean Amy Struthers proposed the idea to sports media and communication Coordinator John Shrader and Professor Jennifer Sheppard. They were willing to take on the project in the middle of a semester and helped identify possible candidates for the new role.

The remainder of this fall semester will provide a window to pilot the concept of sports reporters in residence at Andersen Hall. The initiative is funded by Lynn and Dana Roper of Lincoln. Lynn, the CoJMC 2019 Master’s Week Master, said she is proud of her journalism degree. 

In addition to this project, Lynn and Dana fund the Roper Sports Writing Competition at CoJMC. In recent years, the fund has awarded four cash prizes, ranging from $1,000 for first place to $250 for fourth place, to CoJMC students. The competition includes stories written for traditional newspapers and has been expanded to include stories written for electronic media.

According to Struthers, the initiative takes the idea of a guest speaker and stretches it into a more consistent long-term engagement on the part of working professionals in students’ lives. Rather than spending significant sums on brief speaker events, the residencies should encourage valuable relationships to develop over time, increasing impact for students, faculty and the professionals themselves.

With the help of students, the faculty identified two reporters to interact with students and faculty: Erin Sorensen of Hail Varsity and Mitch Sherman of The Athletic.

 “The vision is that Erin and Mitch will start with presentations and conversations in a few classes, perhaps get to a meeting or two of the new Sports Media Club, and provide some level of mentorship to students,” Struthers said. “It is, for now, a small test of what could prove to be an exciting way to connect our alums in the industry with current students, reinforce the work of our faculty, and keep a constant stream of new ideas flowing through our college.”

Mitch Sherman, a staff writer for The Athletic who covers Nebraska football, is an Omaha native and 1998 journalism graduate of the CoJMC. He previously covered college sports for after working 13 years for the Omaha World-Herald.

Erin Sorensen is a 2010 advertising and public relations graduate and deputy editor/digital marketing strategist at Hail Varsity in Omaha. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report and Cox Media Group's Land of 10. Sorensen has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET's Big Red Wrap-Up and a variety of other radio shows.

"We feel it is important the students have contact with professionals, and one-on-one relationship building is the best,” Shrader said. “Mitch and Erin have so much to offer the students in terms of professional practices, business standards and industry trends. We expect Mitch and Erin and all future Roper Sports Reporters in Residence will be an immense benefit to our students and their professional prospects."