As the world follows the 2010 Winter Olympics this month, a UNT professor will be right in the middle of the action, serving as a host in the Olympic Village's Olympic Family Hotel.
Sander Martin is an associate professor of educational psychology in the College of Education's Educational Psychology Department and director of UNT's School Psychology Program. He is also a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, which is hosting the winter games.
Professor Sander Martin
About 2 years ago when Martin learned that his home town would host the 2010 games, he wrote immediately to the Olympic Committee to say he wanted to help in any way that he could.
"I told them that I'm from Vancouver and about my background, field of study and qualifications and said how much I wanted to be a part of the games," Martin says. "About 60,000 people inquired about how to become a volunteer and between a fourth and a third of those were picked."
A year later, he was invited for a personal interview with the Vancouver Olympic committee.
"I had to go through a Royal Canadian Mounted Police security check, and finally they asked if I would be interested in volunteering and I said yes," he says. "They looked at my qualifications and said they would decide where to place me. About 6 months ago I found out where I will be working."
Olympic Village host
Martin suspects that his background in child psychology and the fact that he's licensed to practice in British Columbia may have had something to do with the committee's decision to place him where it did. Members of the International Olympic Committee, International Sport Federations, National Olympic Committees of participating nations and international sponsors will stay in the hotel – along with their families.
Officially, Martin's role as host will involve making sure that only people with the appropriate credentials get into the hotel, as well as give directions, recommend good places to eat in the area, and simply help hotel guests as much as he can. Unofficially, he wants to be an ambassador for UNT while he's rubbing elbows with an international crowd.
Close-up of the pin that will be traded during the games.
The Olympics is a fertile ground for memorabilia collectors, with sponsors and hobbyists setting up trading stations around the host city. Pins are a favorite with collectors, so Debbie Kutsky, senior assistant to the dean of the College of Education, worked with Martin to design a pin for the games featuring a Texas flag and a UNT flag, including the university's web address. Martin is taking about 500 pins to trade and hopes to open a dialog about the university with collectors.
In good company
Martin is not the first UNT faculty member to share their knowledge for the good of the Olympic games. Karen Cogan, an assistant professor of psychology at UNT, has been invited to the Olympics three times to support U.S. athletes.
As a sport psychologist, Cogan provided a listening ear and helpful advice to U.S. Olympic Taekwondo Team members and coaches at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. She also worked with the U.S. Freestyle Mogul Team at two Winter Olympics – Salt Lake City in 2002 and Torino, Italy, in 2006.
UNT's School Psychology Program teaches students to respect the dignity of children and adults throughout the process of psychological investigation, assessment and intervention. Martin believes this philosophy will be quite valuable when he finds himself in situations of high tension during the games.
"Sooner or later someone is going to be running late or they won't have the credentials to get into the place where they need to be and they are going to be upset," Martin says. "We've had crisis training, but my psychology knowledge will help as well. There are ways to deal with people that allows you to be helpful while you defuse the situation."
More about Martin's Olympic adventure
When he's working:
8 a.m.- 4 or 5 p.m. every day
Where he's staying:
At the house of a hometown friend who will be out of town during the games.
His favorite winter sport:
Hockey. Though he played as a child, an accident involving a hockey stick and his head ended his career shortly after it started.
"I still have a little bald spot because of that injury. After that, my mom said no more hockey."