Matthew Boczar has been a lifelong fan of the Philadelphia Phillies. So when it came time for the management of sports industries major to do his senior honors thesis project, he thought baseball.
His project, “The Impact of Minor League Baseball Teams on Local Economies,” focused on how small towns and cities throughout the United States are affected by minor league baseball teams. He wanted to know to what extent business growth, employment and local vendors are affected by their presence.
He contacted minor league general managers and town officials to learn more about the Beloit Snappers from Beloit, Wis., the Altoona Curve from Altoona, Pa., and the Charlotte Stone Crabs from Port Charlotte, Fla. They discussed the ways in which minor league baseball improved the quality of life there.
In addition to helping the local economy, it gave the towns something more: a team to root on and a place for families to gather on summer afternoons. But Boczar also discovered the downside, as one Ohio town will be paying back loans on a stadium for years to come, he said, at a cost to municipal jobs.
“Minor league baseball teams cannot attract fans simply through their win-loss records, but instead must offer family entertainment that causes fans to choose to spend their money at the stadium rather than at alternative options,” said Boczar, who will pursue his MBA at UNH.
Boczar’s thesis advisor, Kevin Mongeon, assistant professor of sports management, said his thesis came about in the best way possible—because he was curious. “He’s a very intelligent person and an excellent student,” Mongeon said. “Most research is done on sports in major cities. He turned his attention to smaller communities and took a close look at economies and how the effects of a decision can be felt by the 10,000 people who live in that town for years to come. I hope he pursues it further. It’s a topic that is publishable in an academic journal.”
Boczar was among the 45 students in the Honors Program who presented their thesis projects at the end of the spring semester. The students researched a topic in their major discipline under the guidance of a faculty member. The results of their research were presented orally to faculty members in each student’s major, fellow Honors students, and members of the Faculty Honors Committee.
“The projects ranged from exploring new techniques in forensic science to a thematic analysis of Kafka writings to a study using computer models to hypothesize about the chemical origins of life,” said Matthew Wranovix, director of the Honors Program.
Megan Penney’s project on the difference between the use of force by canines versus tasers in police work became a lesson in resilience. Midway through her research, her house was broken into and “three laptops, the external hard drives, basically anything with wires were stolen,” she said. Her project was gone, even the back-up files. Michael Jenkins, assistant professor of criminal justice and Penney’s thesis advisor, jumped in to help. “He sent me everything thing I ever sent him so I could piece a lot of it back together,” she said.
Her research led her to replicate the actual experience of canine force, putting on a shield called “the bite arm” and letting a police dog pursue her twice. “It bruised a little but it was an adrenaline rush,” she said. “The dog is so well trained though and knew exactly what to do.”
Penney will head to John Jay College in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice with an emphasis on research in the roles canines play in law enforcement.
Wranovix said this kind of experiential learning benefits students in many ways.
“The projects were of outstanding quality and many students have used this experience as the foundation for a successful application to graduate school,” he said. “Work is often project-based, and the thesis gives students experience with seeing a project through to the end.”
This story was originally posted in Summer 2013.