“Consider the issue of doping in competitive cycling,” says Jill Weinberg, one of the instructors in the MSA program. “Society says it’s bad, but inside that environment it was not necessarily considered deviant. In fact, you are a deviant if you didn’t dope. So how should we think about it?”
Thinking critically about social issues in sports, and getting students to make broader connections about the industry relate directly to Weinberg’s background. In addition to her law degree, Weinberg earned MAs in the social sciences both at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, and is completing a PhD in Northwestern’s Department of Sociology with numerous publications and fellowships under her belt. She also was a Division I athlete on the Boston University Women’s Rowing Team, so she relates the course topics to her own experience.
“We read, discuss and write about a wide range of topics such as the culture of fandom, economic exploitation, stereotypes and the myth that sports leads to upward mobility for minority groups,” she explains. “My goal is not to convert students to sociology, but raise awareness about how a sociological framework can help them make informed decisions in their careers. When a team threatens to move, students appreciate that this occurs according to a pattern they learned about — they feel like fortune tellers.”
Weinberg also exposes students to a rigorous writing schedule: “Students have different backgrounds, but everyone will learn to write better. You will learn a lot about the culture of sports, and in the process your writing will be brought up to professional standards.”