Firsts are nothing new for Kemardo Tyrell. The Jamaican native was the first in his family to attend college, and he did not stop at one degree. With a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees already in hand, he earned a Presidential Fellowship to pursue his doctorate in sport and entertainment management at the University of South Carolina. Now, in his third year as a Ph.D. student, Tyrell has become the first student from USC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management to be named an SEC Emerging Scholar.
The prestigious program was established by provosts from the 14 SEC universities to
aid in preparing future faculty members. The program is designed to provide professional
development and networking opportunities for current doctoral students and a limited
number of postdoctoral researchers who are considering careers in higher education.
"Securing this prestigious award, which unites some of the most exceptional minds across the SEC, is an accomplishment of profound magnitude and I’m forever grateful," Tyrell says.
After completing his MBA at Idaho State University, Tyrell considered law school. However, as he researched potential paths, he was drawn to USC and its widely renowned Department of Sport and Entertainment Management.
"I chose the University of South Carolina for my doctoral journey because its prominence is undeniable and serves as an incubator for excellence," he says. "The curriculum aligns perfectly with my preference for a business-oriented approach, which was a key factor in my choice of this academic program. What truly stood out for me, however, was when I examined the CVs and the professional experiences of the faculty members in the department. The wealth of industry experience these professors bring to the table, beyond their academic roles, became a compelling selling point. I aspire to be part of an academic environment that strikes a balance between theoretical knowledge and practical industry insights, and the seasoned faculty here embodies that ideal for me."
Tyrell found that balance at USC, combining academia and practical applications in his doctoral research, which includes technological innovation (adoption and diffusion from an organizational and team perspective), sports consumers' response to technological innovation (acceptance and resistance), the effectiveness of technology investments in sports entities, AI and ML for sports business decision-making (optimizing decision-making processes for efficiency and strategic outcomes), entrepreneurship in sports technology start-ups, and empirical research in social entrepreneurship.
"Visionary mentors such as my advisor, Dr. Khalid Ballouli, nurture my aspirations while the abundance of cutting-edge resources fuels my boundless intellectual exploration," he says.
Ballouli, an associate professor and Ph.D. program director in USC's Department of Sport and Entertainment Management, has been very impressed with Tyrell.
"Kemardo's remarkable journey from a pioneering first-generation college student to becoming an SEC Emerging Scholar exemplifies an extraordinary fusion of strong determination, intellectual curiosity, and academic excellence, setting a new benchmark for future scholars in the field of sport and entertainment management," Ballouli says.
It's a long way for a young man who left his small-town home in 2010 to go places
no one he knew had gone before.
"I remember when I got on that airplane to leave Jamaica, I cried like a baby," he says. "I couldn't believe that I was going off to go to college, something that I had never seen anyone in my family attempt to do or have the opportunity to do."
Just making it onto that plane was a big success. For Tyrell, it was only a beginning. He earned his bachelor's degree in information systems from Notre Dame College, a master’s in operations management from the University of Arkansas and an MBA in business administration with a focus on finance and athletic administration from Idaho State. After deciding to pursue his Ph.D. at USC, he applied for and won the Presidential Fellowship, the most prestigious university-wide award available to USC graduate students.
Now, as an SEC Emerging Scholar with the completion of his doctorate in sight, he is determined to pass on all he has learned to students seeking to follow in his footsteps.
"In our role as emerging scholars, we are poised to become the vanguard of academia’s future," he says. "This mantle carries the profound responsibility of reimagining education, forging a future path and leaving an indelible mark on the generations that follow."