Student Research Survey Grows from Chester Roots to International Partnerships

Nicole Carrera, Assistant Director of Communications
A student talks with a fan about the survey, there is a tent and soccer themed activity in the background
Indwija Bhatta ’27 talking to a fan outside of Subaru Park

Hands-on research is a vital part of the Widener student experience and faculty are always finding new and creative ways to get students involved. Faculty in the School of Business Administration found an opportunity with the Philadelphia Union to have students interacting directly with fans.

Led by Brian Larson, professor of marketing and sport & event management, a group of students from his marketing research class took to the areas in and around the Union’s home stadium, Subaru Park, to survey fans about their experience and better understand the customer gameday journey.

“We made our way from the outside in,” said Ben Miller ’25, a marketing major and accounting minor. “We asked questions about parking, concessions, friendliness of stadium staff, and more topics that someone would appreciate coming in as a fan.”

Approaching strangers can be a challenge, and the students were pushed out of their comfort zone.

“At first it was a little bit out of my comfort zone since English is my second language,” said Indwija Bhatta ’27, an international student from Nepal studying business economics at Widener. “After some time, it got really fun and I wasn’t nervous because people were very interested.”

Students gather around a table outdoors as faculty pass out materials

Larson and other School of Business faculty including Assistant Professors Maria Pinho and Amin Keramati, were stationed at a table on the stadium concourse to use as a home base for the project. Participants who filled out the survey were entered to win a Philadelphia Union jersey, and their data was collected and analyzed. The goal is to take this research methodology internationally.  

Larson has a number of international academic connections including University of Vic in Spain and University of Applied Sciences Windeshiem in the Netherlands. He has also been in contact with major European soccer teams including FC Barcelona and another top-tier club from the Netherlands.

“I envisioned and proposed a project to create an international research/think tank alliance of academic and professional soccer institutions,” Larson explained. “This group could share best practices and advance learning for the participating professional teams and leagues, and students from the four academic institutions.”

Such exercises could advance all the members’ goals, including meaningful hands-on learning experiences for students and better fan experiences for the athletic organizations.

Larson will travel to Spain to share the project with FC Barcelona and University of Vic partners in Spring 2024, to continue discussing the potential for expansion.

“If all goes well, we’ll be not only replicating the research project with Widener marketing research students in the fall, but also extending the project to other global sister schools,” Larson said.

“It makes me a little proud that our hard work is going to be used by international football clubs. I’m just a freshman and our work is already being used like that. I feel like sports management is very globalized right now and I’m happy to see that Widener and Dr. Larson are considering that,” said Bhatta.

Bhatta was grateful to get access to such an exciting hands-on learning experience so early in her time at Widener.

“I got to do all of these things in my first semester of freshman year so I think it puts me a little bit ahead of most people in our class in terms of communication skills and networking skills,” she said.

A student wearing a dark suit points and explains information on a poster
Ben Miller at the HIP Fair

Miller presented on the project at the Spring 2024 High-Impact Educational Practices Fair. Attended by students, faculty, staff, and alumni, the fair is one of many changes for Widener students to showcase their research and hard work.

“It’s such an honor to be able to participate in this and it lets me know I made a good choice in coming to Widener. It’s really empowering, and it distinguishes you from a lot of other college students that you have hands-on experience and you’re actually making a difference in the real world,” Miller said.

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