Allison McFarland is going to the Olympics.

Although she is a triple medalist (two gold, one silver) in the 2012 Kansas Senior Olympics, the professor of business and economics is not actually competing in the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, February 7–23, 2014. Instead, she’ll be a volunteer, or event services team member.

Although she has been in academics for 22 years, next February McFarland begins her first-ever sabbatical. Besides the fact that she loves sports, she is particularly interested, she says, in the tactical planning that surrounds event management.

As a volunteer and/or facilitator, I have participated in several other large activities, including the Michigan Senior Olympics, Symphony in the Flint Hills, Girls on the Run events and the Kansas State High School Track Meet. It will be interesting to see these event management strategies played out on an international stage.

Before coming to Bethel, McFarland taught at Western Michigan University, where she helped place interns at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. My interest in volunteering at the Olympics [also] stems in part from having taught Sport History courses at previous institutions, she says.

The application process for being selected as a Sochi volunteer began nearly a year ago. All applicants had to complete an English proficiency exam and participate in a lengthy interview. McFarland’s interview last spring lasted nearly an hour and was conducted via Skype.

Traveling to eastern Europe will be a new experience, she continues. Russian culture is significantly different from Western culture. I am particularly interested in observing how these cultural differences shape management style and decision making processes.

Political and social news from Russia have become a regular part of our media coverage. It is my hope that this experience will allow me to better understand the Russian culture and differences in managerial values and leadership styles between our two cultures.

During the 2014 Winter Games, volunteers will live in specially constructed apartment houses. In addition to their accommodations, the organizing committee will pay for volunteers’ food, provide them with uniforms and transport them to and from their places of work.

Around 180,000 people, most of them from Russia, applied to be Winter Games volunteers, with an estimated 29,000 selected.