Mel Johnston

Mel Johnston

Lecturer, School of Sport and Recreation
Doctor of Philosophy candidate

Her fascination with major sport events started at a very young age, says Mel Johnston who has just completed a PhD exploring this topic and will be graduating this August.

“My earliest memory of attending a major sport event was going to the Commonwealth Games in Auckland with my dad as a five-year-old. Since then I’ve been an enthusiastic advocate for hosting major sport events and have managed such events as part of my career. However, my roles in major sport events always commenced after we had won the bid to host, and I was interested in how decisions were made on bidding for these events.

“My PhD research explored the use of referendums to inform decisions to bid for major sport events; in this case, a New Zealand bid for the Commonwealth Games. This research contributes to a better understanding of support for the use of public opinion on major sport event decisions, and thus has implications for prospective host cities, sport managers, policy makers and ordinary citizens.”

Mel’s doctoral research was supervised by Dr Michael Naylor from AUT’s School of Sport and Recreation, and Associate Professor Geoff Dickson, a former AUT academic who is now at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Support and opportunities
Coming to AUT for her PhD was an easy decision for Mel.

“I chose to study at AUT due to its reputation as an innovative and industry-connected university. AUT is well respected, not only academically but also within the sport industry, which is very important to me. What we do here has to have the potential to have an impact and make a difference.

“I’ve truly enjoyed my whole PhD studies. On top of the amazing support received from my supervisors and various support people, there were a lot of supplementary opportunities. During my PhD journey I was involved in conferences in Adelaide, the Gold Coast, Auckland, Christchurch and New Orleans, and won the Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand Student Research Award.”

She would highly recommend postgraduate study at AUT’s School of Sport and Recreation, Mel says.

“There’s a great team environment, and a willingness to support and mentor both undergraduate and postgraduate students. The staff are interested in the student holistically, providing opportunities to excel to where you want to progress to post-study.”

The journey to academia
She knew early on in her postgraduate studies that she wanted a career in academia, Mel says.

“I really loved researching and working with a range of industry stakeholders. I was also lucky enough to be given opportunities to dip my toe into what being an academic may look like, taking up roles as a teaching and research assistant.”

With graduation just around the corner, Mel is now looking forward to sharing her passion for sport and recreation with other students.

“Upon completion of my PhD I was offered a full-time position as a lecturer in the Sport Leadership and Management team at AUT’s School of Sport and Recreation. I also continue to be involved in research projects on a range of topics, including gender diversity on sport club boards, fandom in professional sport clubs, and innovation and resilience of sport clubs during a pandemic.”

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