Vaccaro immerses herself in the world of sports media | Nebraska Today

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is one of the few universities in the nation to specialize in sports media and communication. Regan Vaccaro — a double major in sports communication and advertising/PR from Overland Park, Kansas — has taken advantage of everything it has to offer. We spoke with her about gaining hands-on experience, what motivates her, and the people in Nebraska who have supported her.

How would you explain the Sports Media major to someone outside of the College of Journalism and Mass Communication (CoJMC) community?

The sports media major is really just a culmination of journalism, advertising, public relations, and communications, all wrapped up in a sports focus. It gives you the skills to do so much in the sports world. From broadcast to digital media, fan development and marketing or even sports news and statistics; the world is truly open and anything is possible.

Explain why you decided to apply to Nebraska and get into sports media and advertising.

From a young age, I always had ties to Nebraska, but what really stood out to me was the degree in sports media. It’s a unique experience as most schools have very specific sports management degrees or don’t focus on sports at all. ONE offers students “do it from day one” opportunities to get their hands on it the moment you set foot on campus. When I was in high school, my broadcast class was invited to visit CoJMC and I immediately fell in love with the facilities, staff, and opportunities the school offered.

You’ve had plenty of opportunities to gain real-world experience, working with Sporting K.C. to the Huskers. Why was it so important to take advantage of these opportunities and what was your biggest lesson?

When I give advice to young students, I always tell them that it’s the things you do outside of the classroom that will really make you stand out in the world of sport. For me, I’ve grown so much as a student, professional, and human through my internships with Husker Athletics and Sporting Kansas City. Through these opportunities, I not only gained vital skills and a portfolio to help me in the future, but I also developed key relationships that will serve me well in my future professional career. My internships were a great transition from college to the “real world” after graduation. I learned to work in a professional environment, to manage my time and I also gained irreplaceable confidence.

What’s your favorite thing about being a sports media specialist?

Besides being able to say “I’m a sports media specialist” (I mean, it’s so cool, isn’t it!), my favorite thing about being a sports media specialist, that’s how passionate everyone is about the program. I have met some of my best friends through the program and have classes with them every semester. Together we spend our free time playing sports, watching sports together, talking about sports and dreaming about the future. The passion that sports media majors have for their careers is truly special and it’s such an uplifting community to be a part of.

How will your involvement in the sports media program help you in the future?

I wanted to work in sport from an early age. I mean, when I was in fifth grade, I was the only girl in class who dressed up as a Nebraska soccer player for Halloween. This program gave me the space and opportunities to make my dreams come true. I have met so many amazing faculty and staff who have helped me step out of my comfort zone and try new things that I never would have dreamed of before. I gained so many skills and connections through the program that I consider a lifetime. Hands-on experiences are so valuable and I really don’t know where I would be without them.

What motivates you?

If I had to choose one word to describe myself it would be: Futurist. I always dream of the future, the experiences and the places where I will go. It brings me so much joy to think about the world of opportunities I have in the sports world because it all feels so exciting to me. Especially as a woman in sports, I’m driven to push myself to be the best to prove to myself and to young girls around the world that they can succeed in a male-dominated industry. I’ve always admired older women in sports and hope to be that role model for someone one day.

For me in particular, I admire Kathy Nelson, the president of the Kansas City Sports Commission. I had the opportunity to interview him in one of my classes and have admired him ever since. It “does it all” in my opinion. Balancing a family, succeeding in sports and above all giving back to your city and your community. Not only is she chair of the sports commission, but she works with TO WIN for K.C. which is a non-profit organization that encourages participation in sports for young girls in the city. To me, that’s so inspiring.

Who had an impact on your time in Nebraska?

My teacher Matt Waite is someone who really impacted my time in Nebraska. I always had a love for sports media before taking his sports data and analytics course, but this course and his passion gave me a new love for the industry. This course was probably the hardest course I had taken so far in my college career, but I gained so much knowledge and wisdom through adversity. Matt was – and still is – a constant encouragement and makes sure his students know they can do the hard things and go all the way when the end is not in sight. He is always there to give advice to students, to help them through difficulties and to be able to see the big picture.

What advice would you give to a new CoJMC student?

One piece of advice I would give an incoming CoJMC student is to apply early and get involved. I know it probably sounds like a broken record, but in this industry, it’s really the things outside of the classroom that will get you a job. I’m not saying to slack off on classes, but when planning your time, be sure to balance your priorities. College is a lot more fun when spent with friends participating in fun clubs and doing awesome internships anyway!

What did you learn that will stick in your memory after you graduate?

Something I learned that will stay with me after graduation is not necessarily something I learned, but rather a mentality. For me, being a very forward-thinking and goal-oriented person, it’s hard for me to live in the moment. I 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 every day that make it special and live life with a positive attitude.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

After my studies, I hope to work somewhere in sport (surprise). At this time, I am considering graduate school to further my studies in sports management/administration while applying for various jobs. I have a passion for stories and people. For me, sports media is the industry that brings joy and memories to EVERYTHING people. I would like to end up somewhere where I can combine my passion for human connection with digital and creative media in sports while exploring branding and business strategies.

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