STARKVILLE, Miss.--As the world turns its attention to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Olympic winter games, a Mississippi State assistant professor of communication is getting a first-hand look from the sidelines as an Olympic News Service reporter.
Skye Cooley, after a lengthy and meticulous selection process, was chosen as a volunteer journalist to serve as a "flash reporter," someone who will interview American and Russian athletes from the event sidelines. He will work in Russia through Feb. 27 before returning to MSU.
A native of Singer, La., Cooley completed his undergraduate degree in international studies in 2005 from LSU before pursuing a master's degree in mass communication at the university. It was during his master's program that he met his wife Asya, a native of Russia. Cooley went on to earn a doctoral degree in communication from the University of Alabama in 2011 before joining the MSU faculty.
With his wife, Cooley already has visited Russia several times over the last few years. He built close relationships with her family, including his father-in-law, who upon hearing of the planned Sochi games wanted the family to attend together, Cooley said.
Cooley's father-in-law, who he described as a "very prideful Russian guy," died last year before his desire to watch the Olympics in his home country was fulfilled, but not before he enjoyed his own challenging sporting adventures alongside Cooley--including biking together from Paris to Prague.
Cooley said the relationship he had with his late father-in-law was one factor that inspired him to make good on the original idea to attend the Olympics, even though the family could not attend together. His wife, now director of annual giving for the MSU Foundation, is watching the Olympics from home while she continues her work responsibilities, as well as her work toward a doctoral degree in public administration. Her Russian family also is watching from home, which is hundreds of miles from Sochi.
Nonetheless, Cooley, will have the opportunity to visit with some Russian friends, but he said his time in Russia will be tight. In addition to his responsibilities with the Olympic News Service, Cooley will be conducting research about gender portrayal relative to sports coverage by media. He is continuing work on research projects in conjunction with his colleague Amy Jones, an assistant professor of journalism and speech at the University of West Alabama.
Cooley's MSU courses are being handled in his absence by visiting lecturers, video lectures, and online presentations, as well as service-learning components.
Cooley said he was grateful to the university for allowing his work with the Olympics, adding that the experience is just one of the positive ways MSU has supported faculty research.
"Mississippi State has been so great to us. We have been able to launch professional careers here, and we are both happy to be here," Cooley said.
Cooley also will blog from Sochi during the Olympics via The Clarion-Ledger. (Click here to read the blog.)
"I'm also just excited to be part of the event--to be there more than anything," Cooley said.
For more information about Mississippi State University, see www.msstate.edu.