Students get inside look at automotive industry as part of SEMA Internship

November 17 2006

EDITOR?S NOTE: Kelly Waite is the daughter of Jeff and Karen Waite of Hobart, Ind. Kyle Neisen (pictured at right) is the son of Robert and Carol Neisen of Evansville, Ind.

Two Indiana State University students and motorsports management minors recently served as interns at the 2006 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas and the experience opened their eyes to a whole new world of opportunities in motorsports.

Kyle Neisen, an Evansville freshman, and Kelly Waite, a Hobart senior - both enrolled in ISU's new minor in motorsports management (announced in April 2006) - worked as interns for the four-day event.

SEMA is known the world over as the premier automotive specialty products trade event. It draws the industry's brightest minds and hottest products and typically attracts more than 100,000 industry leaders from more than 100 countries. The tradeshow specializes in aftermarket automotive, truck, SUV, marine and RV products.

The SEMA Intern Program provides valuable learning experiences for students who hope to test their classroom knowledge in a real-world setting. Students are placed with four companies based on their interests, and they spend in-depth time with each during the course of the show.

"The internship program gave me the opportunity to meet some great people, who, in turn, introduced me to even more great people," said Kyle Neisen, a business administration and automotive technology management double major. "It seems all of the industry icons were present and waiting to meet these students SEMA had chosen."

Participating interns represented some of the brightest, most promising students in the country - all preparing for careers in the automotive industry. Those selected had to meet a minimum class standing and submit a written essay outlining why they should be chosen to participate in the program. They also had to provide an analysis about what they did and did not like about the experience.

"It's a very exclusive group (selected interns), and SEMA is very much into creating a positive experience for the students," said Paul Clark, an ISU assistant professor of marketing, who accompanied the students on the trip. "It was a one-in-a-million opportunity for them. They had access to CEOs, presidents and national sales managers of major automotive equipment companies. I can't imagine a better venue for our students."

Access definitely was the name of the game.

"I was amazed at how well the people I shadowed included me in everything they did so that I could get the most out of the experience," said Neisen, who also is founder and president of Team Sycamore Racing, ISU's new student organization and drag race team. "I would love to go back next year!"

In addition to networking with automotive executives, interns were able to gain an awareness of the diversity and depth of the automotive aftermarket in addition to a better understanding of SEMA and its role in the industry. They also had the opportunity to experience firsthand what goes in to operating, planning and designing an automotive tradeshow of this magnitude.

"No other opportunity could have offered so much in so little time!" Neisen said. "The benefits of participating in SEMA for ISU and the students - motorsports management students, in particular - could be immeasurable. Everyone I spoke with, whether for 30 seconds or three hours, was impressed and interested in knowing more about ISU and our new motorsports management program."

And, a unique program it is, Clark said, referring to the motorsports management minor's multidisciplinary approach, which involves three colleges at the university - technology, business, and health and human performance.

"My marketing degree will show that I know how to be a marketer, but adding the motorsports management minor to it will show that not only do I have knowledge of the business world but also of the motorsports world, which is very competitive," said Waite, who wants to go into sports marketing after graduating from ISU. "I hope the minor will give me a leg up when I go to apply for my future job."

"Racing may bring students in (to ISU's motorsports program) and grab their attention, but I think our students had a chance during this internship to realize the need for all aspects of the industry: the recreation and sport management piece, the business piece and the technology piece. From what we saw, no one else does it like ISU."

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CONTACTS: Paul Clark, assistant professor of marketing, Indiana State University, (812) 237-2063 or mkclark@isugw.indstate.edu; Kyle Neisen, president/founder, Team Sycamore Racing, an automotive technology management/business administration major and motorsports management minor, at krneisen@yahoo.com or via cell phone at (812) 205-5372; or Kelly Waite, senior marketing major and motorsports management minor, at (219) 742-7053 or kwaite1@mymail.indstate.edu

WRITER: Maria Greninger, associate director, Communications & Marketing, Indiana State University, (812) 237-4357 or 237-7972 or mgreninger@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Two Indiana State University students and motorsports management minors recently served as interns at the 2006 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas and the experience opened their eyes to a whole new world of opportunities in motorsports.

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