The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is one of only a handful of universities in the country with a sports media and communication major. Regan Vaccaro — a sports comm and advertising/public relations double major from Overland Park, Kansas — has taken advantage of all it has to offer. We talked with her about getting hands-on experience, what motivates her and the people at Nebraska who have supported her.
How would you explain the sports media major to someone outside the College of Journalism and Mass Communications (CoJMC) community?
The sports media major is really just a culmination of journalism, advertising, public relations and communications all wrapped into a sports focus. It equips you with skills to do so many things in the sports world. From broadcasting to digital media, fan development and marketing or even sports information and statistics; the world is really open and anything is possible.
Talk about why you decided to apply to Nebraska and go into sports media and advertising.
From a young age I always had ties to Nebraska, but what really stood out to me was the sports media degree. It is such a unique experience because most schools have very specific sports management degrees or no sports focus at all. UNL provides students with “do from day one” opportunities to get your hands on right away the minute you step foot on campus. When I was a junior in high school, my broadcasting class was invited up to visit CoJMC and I instantly fell in love with the facilities, the staff and the opportunities the school provided.
You’ve had a lot of opportunities to gain real-world experience, from working with Sporting KC to the Huskers. Why was taking advantage of these opportunities so important and what has been your biggest takeaway?
When I am giving advice to younger students I always tell them that it is the things you do outside of the classroom that will truly set you apart in the sports world. For me, I have grown so much as a student, professional and human through my internships with Husker Athletics and Sporting Kansas City. Through these opportunities, I have not only gained vital skills and a portfolio to help me in the future, but I have developed key connections that will benefit me in my future professional career. My internships have been a great transition between college and the “real world” post-grad. I have learned how to work in a professional environment, manage my time and I have also gained confidence that is irreplaceable.
What is your favorite part about being a sports media major?
Besides being able to say “I’m a sports media major” (I mean that is so cool right!), my favorite part about being a sports media major is how deeply passionate everyone in the program is about it. I have met some of my best friends through the program and have classes with them every semester. Together we spend our free time working in sports, watching sports together, talking about sports and dreaming about the future. The passion that sports media majors have for their career is truly special and it is such an uplifting community to be a part of.
How will your involvement in the sports media program help you in the future?
I have wanted to work in sports from a super young age. I mean, when I was in 5th grade, I was the only girl in the class to dress up as a Nebraska football player for Halloween. This program has given me the space and opportunities to make my dreams become a reality. I have met so many great faculty and staff members who have helped push me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things that I never would have previously dreamed of. I have gained so many skills and connections through the program that I consider to be lifelong. The hands-on experiences are so valuable and I truly don’t know where I would be without them.
What motivates you?
If I had to pick one word to describe myself it would be: Futuristic. I always dream about the future, the experiences and places that I will go. It brings me so much joy to think about the world of possibilities I have in the sports world because it all seems so exciting to me. Especially as a woman in sports, I am motivated to push myself to be the best to prove to my younger self and younger girls everywhere that they can be successful in a male-dominated industry. I have always looked up to older women in sports and I hope to be that role model for someone one day.
For me specifically, I look up to Kathy Nelson, the president of the Kansas City Sports Commission. I had the opportunity to interview her in one of my classes and have looked up to her ever since. She “does it all” in my opinion. Balancing a family, being successful in sports and most of all giving back to her city and community. Not only is she the president of the Sports Commission, but she works with WIN for KC which is a nonprofit that encourages the participation in sports for young girls around the city. To me, that is so inspiring.
Who has impacted your time at Nebraska?
My professor Matt Waite is one person that has truly impacted my time at Nebraska. I always had a love for sports media before taking his Sports Data and Analytics class, but that class and his passion gave me a new love for the industry. That class was probably the hardest class I had taken to that point in my college career but I gained so much knowledge and wisdom through adversity. Matt was-and still is-a constant encourager and makes sure that his students know they can do hard things and push through when the end isn’t in sight. He is always there to give students advice, help through the struggles and be able to see the bigger picture.
What is one piece of advice you would give an incoming CoJMC student?
One piece of advice I would give to an incoming CoJMC student is to apply themselves early and get involved. I know that probably sounds like a broken record, but in this industry, it truly is the things outside of the classroom that will get you a job. I’m not saying to slack on classes, but when planning your time make sure to balance your priorities. College is much more fun when spent with friends participating in fun clubs and doing awesome internships anyways!
What is something you’ve learned that will stick with you after you graduate?
Something I have learned that will stick with me after I graduate isn’t necessarily something I have learned but more of a mentality. For me being a very forward-thinking, goal-oriented person, it is hard for me to live in the moment. I have learned that life is a special time to grow, try new things, fail, succeed, laugh, cry and everything in between. When I graduate, I hope to continue to find the little things in each day that make it special and live life with a positive attitude.
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
After I graduate, I hope to work somewhere in sports (surprise). Right now I am considering graduate school to further my study of sports management/administration while also applying to a variety of jobs. I have a passion for storytelling and people. To me, sports media is the industry of bringing joy and memories to ALL people. I would love to end up somewhere where I can combine my passion for human connection with digital and creative media in sports while exploring brand and business strategies.