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Global Engagement Through Sport

January 26, 2023

Lasell undergraduate students in the University’s Global Engagement Through Sport and Health Fitness course visited Belfast, Northern Ireland, for a cultural learning experience over Thanksgiving break. The trip and affiliated course, taught by Dean of the School of Health Sciences Cris Haverty and Assistant Professor of Exercise Science Ron Laham, was centered around understanding the region’s culture and the operation of sporting events. 

Students at SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Lasell University has a standing partnership with Odyssey Trust, a nonprofit organization that owns the Belfast Giants professional hockey team, SSE Arena, and W5 Life Center — all of which students were able to interact with on the trip. The trip is centered around the Harness Friendship Four, run by the Belfast Giants as the first and only NCAA Division I ice hockey tournament to take place outside the United States. Students learn first-hand how to run a sporting event of that size and scope, how to manage a team, and more. The tournament organizers also ran a sports technology event that showcased different products used in the industry, such as virtual reality tech for concussions, GPS tracking systems for athletes on the ice and field, and exercise recovery equipment to increase blood flow. This gave attending exercise science students the opportunity to see how they could utilize those technologies in clinical practice. 

Haverty notes that the trip is beneficial to majors beyond exercise science. 

“The trip has students understanding organizational behavior, marketing and writing press releases, looking at how sports can change a political climate, and how economic growth has impacted all of that,” she says.

Sage Dodier ’23, a senior marketing major, found the trip to be the perfect learning opportunity.

“As a marketing student, I was initially unsure of how the trip would benefit me academically, but it offers all students an amazing learning experience. We attended a conference at the W5 Life Center that included multiple events and networking opportunities. I enjoyed watching pitches delivered by multiple sports technology companies.” 

On the trip, students attended the grand opening of the W5 life science museum’s new digital learning center. They also met with W5 and Odyssey Trust executives, ran educational programming for 1,200+ school-age children, and used hockey as a way to encourage physical fitness and excitement around applying their own health and well-being to the sports world. 

On the cultural side, students toured Belfast and the coast of Northern Ireland. This included a Black Taxi tour, a two-hour drive through different parts of Belfast to help students understand the area’s history, particularly during a turbulent era from the 1960s through the late 1990s. 

Students in Belfast, Northern Ireland

This trip also provides the “feel” of study-abroad for students who may be limited in terms of athletics. Sheridan Blaha, a senior Exercise Science major and student athlete found this to be a realistic option for her as she takes on the responsibility of two sports. 

“Lasell prides themselves on their study abroad programs. Being a dual athlete, it was never realistic for me to study abroad for a semester. This 10-day experience allowed me to learn about a different culture throughout the semester and allowed me to actually experience it with events and activities related to my major.”