Teamwork was the key to not only NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon's win in the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway April 5 but also the success of a race viewing party put together by The University of Texas-Pan American NASCAR Kinetics team which drew nearly 1,000 people.
The event was a culmination of a semester-long program initiated in January 2009 at UTPA to provide hands-on learning for college students to gain real-world marketing experience while being immersed in the sport of NASCAR. Other universities chosen to participate in the program were Central Michigan University, Clark Atlanta University, Howard University, and Winston-Salem State University.
Misty Brown, one of the five students chosen to be member of the UTPA NASCAR Kinetics team, said she gained valuable experience marketing for such a huge sports industry as NASCAR. Having a chance to also plan such a major event helped her focus in on a number of career options the marketing major from Waxahachie has been considering.
Other team members - all also marketing majors - are Deanna Schneyer, Diamond Bar, Calif.; Crystal Flores, Edinburg; Miguel Leal, Edinburg; and Jose Lucio, Alamo.
Lucio, who hopes one day to work in marketing or public relations for the Dallas Cowboys, said his participation on the NASCAR Kinetics team has been a great stepping stone toward helping him achieve his career goals.
"It's good to be working with a prestigious name like NASCAR. NASCAR is a major sport - the second largest in the country. So this was a good way to get my feet wet in both the marketing and sports world," he said.
As part of the program, teams were given case studies each week that presented everyday challenges and opportunities that NASCAR officials face. Team members had usually only a week to respond with their case study analysis and recommendations. Case studies included, for example, gauging fan avidity requiring the students to design, conduct and analyze their own research survey. Another case study required them to examine how the NASCAR Foundation, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing's charitable arm, could better tell people about what they do.
"One of the suggestions to the Foundation was to have a greater presence on the NASCAR Web site. Later we saw that they had moved it to a more prominent spot on their site. Wow - it made us feel we did something good. We had some other ideas we hope they might adopt," said Schneyer, a Bronc volleyball team player who served as the NASCAR Kinetics team leader.
Schneyer said it has been a "wild ride figuring out what the team could and could not do" but they planned their event to be "big," hoping to draw national attention to South Texas and UTPA students.
"A lot of people don't realize that we have extremely talented students at this University," she said.
Attendees at their race viewing party had the opportunity to enjoy a car show featuring more than 40 local racing cars, restored and "souped up" classic cars as well as live music from three bands in a campus parking lot adjacent to the event's site - the UTPA Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex. Visitors were also welcomed with free pizza and cotton candy and able to watch the race on a large projection screen. Children had a chance to climb the center's rock wall and visit a video arcade where they could play the NASCAR 09 Playstation 3 game.
Keith Moore, a financial adviser with Edward Jones and his wife Roz, a doctoral student in the College of Business Administration, brought their sons Nazier, 7, and Mekai, 3, who were thrilled with seeing the cars and getting to sit in a go cart and put on a racing helmet.
"My son Nazier has several miniature NASCAR cars at home and he likes to race them around. He knows the drivers, their numbers and the companies they are affiliated with," his mother said.
Keith Moore was impressed with the size and quality of the event organized totally by students.
"You could have been in corporate America for years and not have a chance to plan an event like this. This is incredible that students organized this, I would never have thought that," he said.
The UTPA students' teamwork and communication skills impressed Talia Mark, NASCAR national account executive of Consumer Marketing and NASCAR Kinetics program director, who was observing all the activities the five-person team organized for the Sprint Cup Series race viewing day.
"In the real world you don't always have a group of people that can work as well together as this team does," said Mark, who indicated that NASCAR plans to continue the program at UTPA again in fall 2009.
Mark said each school's team will be judged based on creativity in the weekly case studies and the percentage of the college campus that attends the viewing party. The winning school, based on case study performance and viewing party execution, will receive the grand prize, an all expense paid trip to the 2009 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. Since two other school's viewing parties are yet to be held, the results will not be made available until May 2009.
Dr. Teo Ozuna, dean of the College of Business Administration, said win or lose the program benefits students by bringing real-world, experiential learning to them and highlights the capacities of students at UTPA's College of Business Administration.
"Being able to go from the planning stage all the way to the execution and then seeing it here is just tremendous. You can really see it in their faces how they are really radiant about what they learned and how they are applying stuff from the college in terms of classes they are taking," he said.
For more information on the NASCAR Kinetics program, contact Victor Huerta, associate director of the Business Development Center, Office of the Dean in the College of Business Administration, at 956/381-3355 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.