To fans of the Quad City Mallards minor league hockey team, Katarina Kaczmarzyk '16 was known for two things the past two seasons.
The first was her enthusiasm on the microphone while emceeing contests during breaks in the on-ice action. The second? That was her ability to traverse the ice rink in high-heeled boots.
Her secret for the latter was that it was easier than it looked. Kaczmarzyk only stepped on the ice for between-period promotions, and that was after the hockey players had spent 20 minutes skating the surface to a snowy mush.
Here's another secret: For the Mallards and other sports and recreation operations in the Quad Cities and elsewhere, St. Ambrose sport management students are an invaluable resource.
"Huge," Mallards Director of Ticket Sales Zac Wilken said of the impact SAU students have had on the club's operations. "We are probably the smallest staff in the league as far as full time employees, so we rely on them heavily. What we have found is that St. Ambrose students are extremely reliable."
Two former SAU interns work full time for the Mallards, who typically provide internships to five SAU sport management students each season. In 2015-16, they also offered paid part-time practical experience for another four, Kaczmarzyk included.
The St. Ambrose sport management program graduates between 10 to 15 students per year and, at any given point in a school year, three to 12 students will be doing the internship that completes their degree.
The Quad City River Bandits minor league baseball club and various municipal parks and recreation departments around the Quad Cities also count on SAU interns. But internship opportunities don't come strictly from within the region.
From January through May this year, Jadelyn Agent '16 interned at Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Ariz. The facility's central function is to serve as spring training home for Major League Baseball's Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians. In the month of March, every afternoon featured an exhibition baseball game.
"I wore a lot of hats," Agent said of her internship. Although she worked in marketing and creative services, she was asked to sit in on meetings of all departments. "It's cool to see how they all work together."
That, of course, is a central benefit of experiential learning, and a reason the sport management program is one of dozens of St. Ambrose academic programs whose curricula extend outside the classroom and beyond the campus.
Kaczmarzyk's résumé was bolstered not only by her work in minor league hockey, but also by her final semester internship with the Quad City Raiders, a semi-pro football team owned in part by Jerry Harland '14, himself a sport marketing major who interned with the Raiders.
Kaczmarzyk will begin working with a promotions company in Florida this summer. She said her collegiate opportunity for experiential learning helped her quickly land the position.
"We're very fortunate being in the Quad Cities," she said. "There are lots of opportunities for sport management majors."