Andrew Sturt wasn’t looking to get a traditional experience when he came to CU Denver, and while here he learned to fight to get everything possible out of his education. The digital storyteller’s motto, “Where there’s a will there’s a way!” took him all over the country this past summer on the kind of educational adventure most only dream of, and earned him on-line notoriety and even a bit of celebrity.
Sturt graduated Summa Cum Laude from CU Denver in 2016 with a BA in Communication and a solid knowledge of how modern media and sports are growing together. After he’d taken all the offered classes pertaining to the topic, he worked his mentor Dr. Sarah Fields to create four independent study projects augmenting what he’d learned. He says on top of figuring out how to make his education fun, “I developed my skills there, I was able to problem solve and make what I wanted to happen happen.”
Now in his second and final year at Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospitality Management (pursuing a MS in Sports Business with an emphasis in marketing), Sturt wanted to conduct a study exploring fan experience at MLB stadiums across the country. Ready to take his academic research skills on the road, Sturt loaded up his car and spent the summer of 2017 traveling across the country visiting all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums and recording his daily experience on his blog. He had no idea when he set out how many people he would end up bringing along on his journey.
Combing old fashioned friendly handshakes and social media outlets (Sturt’s Instagram and Twitter accounts have combined over 86,000 followers) Sturt capitalized on every occasion he could to connect with people. He tells stories of stopping at gas stations in the middle of America and drawing friendly enquiries from all kinds of people because his back windshield had “Andy Said What” with all his on-line addresses on it. Stopping for meals in family diners all along his 30,000 mile route, Sturt took every possible opportunity to tell his story to local folks (“Who love baseball!”) and encourage them to follow him online by leaving them with his card.
About halfway through the summer Sturt started including the hashtags #gay and #gayboy to his posts, and the response was overwhelming. He started getting emails from kids in places like Nebraska and Wyoming saying they had never heard a voice like his before. These kids hadn’t known there were career opportunities available combining love of sports and out-and-proud gay perspectives, and Sturt loves that he was able to expand those horizons. He says, “I want to be Ellen for sports! I want to be an inspiration to others and show that you can be different and successful and unconventional and people will embrace that.”
Sturt would talk to anyone – doing radio interviews and play-by-play every chance he got – once live during the Texas Rangers MLB broadcast in Spanish, which he does not speak. Then a release put out in September (Summer of Dreams, Andy Sturt Studies the Customer Experience, One MLB Stadium at a Time) got picked up by media outlets as diverse as the London News Journal, the Miami Herald, and the San Francisco Post – plus outlets as geographically remote as Australia, Singapore and India – and this traditional media coverage added extra wind to his social media sails. It also didn’t hurt that he got to go to an ALCS Championship series game with Steph Curry’s barber, and that the picture they took there together got over 12,000 likes. His brand is now so well known that he is receiving offers to do Instagram takeovers and paid endorsement deals, the true mark of a bonafide social media influencer.
As he finishes up his master’s degree this semester, Sturt is taking an Entrepreneurial Journalism class – but he’s already accomplished so much in the field that he’s once again making sure he gets the most out of the experience. The class is being taught by an Executive Editor of Digital for The Guardian and a former editor of digital strategy at The New York Times, and when Sturt approached the professor and showed him what he’s been doing the professor was so impressed that he asked Sturt to help him assistant teach the class. This experience will come in handy, as Sturt says he wants a big part of his future to revolve around educating and inspiring others about how to do what he’s done.
This summer Sturt will continue his adventures by returning to some of his favorite 23 National Parks he visited last summer, exploring the parks he missed, returning to 15 baseball stadiums, blogging about baseball, the outdoors, and now volunteerism. He even plans on driving all the way to Alaska’s Denali National Park and hopes to climb America’s highest peak! “I still love baseball, but this time I want to focus as much on nature, activism and exploring as I do on baseball. I have this huge voice that can maybe help raise awareness for stuff. So, I will be going back to half the ball parks and spending a day in each city doing volunteer work for smaller local charities, in the hope of increasing awareness.”
Sturt plans to pursue his PhD this fall and hopes to return to Colorado (which he calls his adopted home) to share what he’s learned with more CU students. Applying to get his PhD from CU Boulder in the Media Research and Practice program, Sturt says “I want to study my blog and social media… and hopefully inspire students to be unconventional—like me!”