Sport and Community Development

Sport and Community Development Lab

Researchers in the Sport and Community Development lab focus on the use of sport as a platform for achieving positive outcomes.  Although sport is an activity that most people have experienced at some point in their life and feel knowledgeable about it, there is limited meaningful, well-informed research regarding the role sport can play in improving life quality and building community. Given its popularity, the use of sport as a tool for positive community level impact remains high. The SCD has specialized in research that will guide sport managers to better leverage sport in a manner that promotes community building, economic development, and health outcomes.  Thus far, this work has emphasized improving the experiences of collegiate athletes, athletes with disabilities, older adults, and sport officials. Within this work, a critical perspective and strong emphasis is placed on connecting research and theory with practice.  The goal of the SCD research group is to provide 1) sport and community leaders with solutions on how sport can be managed to enhance life quality and promote regional transformation and 2) provide students with community engagement opportunities that will enhance their learning and career-readiness.

Student Research Opportunities

There are many research opportunities within the SCD for both undergraduate and graduate students. Graduate and undergraduate research opportunities are available through projects related to thesis, independent study, practicums, or independent research projects. The SCD provides students with the opportunity to work alongside faculty on their current research projects or be guided by a faculty mentor on their own innovative research projects ideas. Recent undergraduate projects include: Sustainable success: Motives and Small-Scale Charity Sport Events; Not Broken: Improving Disability Sport; Atlanta, A Soccer City?; Big League Social Media: Cultivating Community Online; Eliminating Barriers to Youth Sports in Greenville, North Carolina.  Recent graduate student projects include: Refereeing as a Post-Athletic Career Option; The Role of Community in Athlete Transgressive Behavior; Social Network Analysis as a Complementary Tool to Measuring Team Cohesion; Senior Games: Students’ Community Outreach with Older Adults; NCAA Basketball Team Performance and Coaching Turnover: The Implication of Coaching Success on Subsequent Coaching Changes.

Student Experiential Learning Opportunities

The SCDL also is committed to providing both undergraduate and graduate students with career development and community engagement opportunities. Graduate and undergraduate practical learning opportunities are available through coursework, independent study, practicums, or independent research projects. The SCD provides select students with the opportunity to volunteer alongside faculty at mega sport events and international exchanges as well as participate in short-term summer study abroad programs related to the sport industry. Recent projects include:  The Super Bowl, The Men’s Final Four, a two-way exchange with the Special Olympics’ Peru, and summer study abroad learning experiences.

Applications for annual student experiences that are available are posted on the Sport Management Canvas Announcement page.

Lab Faculty

Picture of Stacy Warner
Stacy Warner
Recreation Sciences


Picture of Andrea Buenano
Andrea Buenano
Recreation Sciences

Dr. Stacy Warner serves as the Director of the SCDL and currently the Graduate Coordinator for the Sport Management program at ECU.

Warner, who is the Dr. Leroy T. Walker Distinguished Professor is a globally recognized leader and expert on community building and sport.  Her research has appeared in top journals across the world, and she authored book chapters on the topic in Sport Sociology, Sport Development, Sport Management, and Sport Theory textbooks.  Prior to starting her academic career, Warner’s sport industry experience has included positions within the United State Olympic Committee, NCAA headquarters, NCAA (Divisions I, II, and III) athletic departments, campus recreation programs, Upward Sports Christian youth leagues, and various large-scale sporting events, such as the NCAA Final Four, Super Bowl, and the Special Olympic World Games. This has resulted in clear practical applications and implications of her research.  She has led 22 successful funded collaborations with sport industry partners over the last decade.  

Dr. Andrea Buenaño is an assistant director with the SCDL and currently serves as an Assistant Professor for the ECU Sport Management program.

Prior to starting her academic career, Dr. Buenaño spent 10 years working in many facets of the sports industry. She was a Division I student-athlete, and then worked in professional sports, recreational sports, interscholastic athletics, Division II athletics, and served as athletics academic manager at Penn State University while completing her Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership & Organizational Leadership.

Dr. Buenaño brings her practical, research, and teaching expertise in experiential learning, leadership development, intercollegiate athletics, and diversity to SCDL. Since starting at ECU in 2021, she has successful enhanced student learning through leading practical experiences and authoring publications that have contributed to improving sport management education (e.g, Girls With Game: Sport and Community Development Strategies, The Impact of Short-Term Mega Sporting Event Experiences on Student Learning, The Engaged Learner: Undergraduate Research and the Super Bowl, etc.).

Dr. Jihoun “AJ” An is a faculty affiliate with the SCDL.  Dr. An provides the lab with expertise in adapted sport and assists with the programming. In 2019, she completed a very successful local project that explored how to empower adolescents without disabilities to better understand disabilities through their participation in an inclusive physical education program (Building an inclusive community in high school: A Peer Mentoring Model). Dr. An is currently the Director of Developmental Motor Laboratory, Coordinator of Adapted Physical Activity Graduate Concentration, and the interim director of the ECU School of Social Work.