Dominc Morais is the recipient of the 2012 North American Society for Sport History (NASSH) Graduate Student Essay Prize. Dominic, who holds one of the William C. Powers’ Graduate Fellowships, will present his paper, “Branding Iron: An Examination of Eugen Sandow’s Utilization of ‘Modern’ Marketing,” in a special session at the NASSH conference in June 2012 in San Francisco, California. The paper will also be published following that meeting in the prestigious Journal of Sport History.
The NASSH prize is regarded as the most prestigious graduate award in the field of sport history and this marks the first time that a student from the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at UT has won the award. Eugen Sandow was a professional strongman and theatrical performer at the turn of the twentieth century, and Dominic did much of his research on the paper in the archives of the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sport. It should also be noted that Dominic began work on the paper in a class on Sport and Globalization taught by Thomas Hunt of the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education.
Doctoral student Dominic Morais is a first-semester Interdisciplinary Sports Studies student in the Kinesiology & Health Education program in the College of Education, and he is a Powers Fellow. This small program attracted Dominic for many reasons, and he hopes that his time here will allow him to become a university professor, backed with the highest level of research available to academics in his field.
Under the advisement of Dr. Jan Todd in the Stark Center, located in the Texas Memorial Stadium, Dominic looks forward to the interdisciplinary approach available to him, allowing for a personalized and flexible academic track. “Even with the projects and papers,” said Dominic, “it is a fun program because you’re blazing your own trail and I feel like that’s almost the whole point at the Ph.D. level. It sets you out on the right path.”
Dominic’s athletic and academic pasts have led him to study at UT, where he will be led by Jan and her husband, Dr. Terry Todd. “In my opinion,” said Dominic, “they’ve almost started this field of study. They are the leaders, and there is no substitute.”
As a first-semester doctoral student, Dominic’s research project has not been solidified, but he does have a desired direction. He is considering the fitness and health aspect of resistance training and the sociocultural history of fitness. He sees it as a historiography, examining the social and cultural themes that were happening at different times that influenced fitness.
“For example, around the time of the Civil War, there was a revival of muscular Christianity, and you start to see the weight dumbbells and an increase in fitness rather than being plump. You can see the implications of that. Even with doping or the Olympics and globalization, sports are a tool with political and social movements, as well, and the Stark Center covers that.”
Dominic grew up in Dayton, Texas, then went to Vanderbilt University, where he played football and earned a bachelor’s degree in Human and Organizational Development. That degree sparked his interest in a broader and more realistic field of research, combing athletics with history and psychology. While earning his master’s degree in Sports Administration at Eastern Illinois University, he worked as a strength coach and began to seek more from the world of athletics than playing and coaching.
“When I realized that I wanted to focus on the academics of athletics, as well as the fitness, health, conditioning and history, coming to UT was the only thing for me,” said Dominic. “It’s like it almost fell in my lap. I had to chase it some, but it’s perfect.”
“My ultimate goal is to become a professor and continue my learning through research. Eventually, I think there’s potential for my research to be able to aid in policy decisions, especially in the play and physical education level in institutions. Even looking at the obesity problem, it’s something that this research could address.” The Powers Fellowship will allow Dominic to be free to research and not feel pressure from other obligations so that he can delve into the work in his field. “I can explore the opportunities and find my place,” said Dominic.
“I’ve always wanted to be excellent, my parents have always motivated me, and I don’t want to be a small fish. Austin is the biggest place I’ve ever been to and here at UT the culture is inspirational. You feel the need to make an impact early and the people that you’re surrounded by want you to keep that up. The people that I’ve met so far are helpful and flexible, and the expectation to be excellent is always supported.”