Match Point 2.0: The Rise of HBCU Men’s Volleyball
Faculty: Adam Kuban & Jennifer Palilonis (Journalism and Strategic Communication)
Community Partners: First Point Volleyball Foundation, USA Volleyball
This project strategically chronicled the development and inaugural season of men’s volleyball programs at 6 HBCUs in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. This sports-centered opportunity involved 10 undergraduates from the School of Journalism & Strategic Communication and the Department of Media and 4 graduate students from the Emerging Media Design & Development program. These cohorts worked in tandem, under the astute guidance of their faculty mentors, where the graduate students organized a comprehensive transmedia campaign around original content primarily produced by the undergraduates, including a 30-minute documentary, 8 podcast episodes, and 10 feature stories for a related blog. The social-media campaign around Match Point has achieved more than 1 million impressions, and the documentary alone has been viewed more than 1,500 times across 3 platforms.
Specifically, this Match Point 2.0 project strategically chronicled the development and inaugural season of men’s volleyball programs at 6 HBCUs in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: Central State University (Ohio), Fort Valley State University (Georgia), Kentucky State University, Morehouse College (Georgia), Paine College (Georgia), and Benedict College (South Carolina).
The advent of men’s volleyball programs at these HBCUs equated to the most significant growth of the sport in the past 50 years, according to the NCAA. Funded by USA Volleyball ($400,000) and by FPVF ($600,000), these 6 new athletic programs awarded scholarship opportunities to many players of color, bringing underrepresented communities into a historically white, affluent sport.
Beyond an introduction to and an examination into the importance of HBCUs, those enrolled in this 3credit-hour course had the following SLOs:
- Identify key terminology and game strategy associated with a specific sport, which are important for aspiring journalists and sports reporters
- Apply and improve your knowledge and multimedia skills associated with documentary storytelling strategies
- Define and explain how (transmedia) storytelling campaigns can help (nonprofit) organizations build their brands and contribute to fan motivation and recruitment campaign efforts.
Related to these SLOs, students faced a number of challenges that tested and honed their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, including but not limited to:
- How to conduct interviews with sensitivity toward the challenges associated with playing a sport as a minority
- How to determine which story arc(s) comprised the eventual documentary
- How to present those arc(s) in a way that informed but not overwhelmed the viewers;How to compromise and negotiate with each other re: subjective production elements such as choice of visuals, music selections, presence/absence of narration.
Graduate students involved in the project learned to apply design thinking and user experience design to create a transmedia campaign intended to engage audiences and promote a core story tent pole (the documentary), as well as extend storytelling across multiple platforms.