BISMARCK, ND — Six students in the Gary Tharaldson School of Business at the University of Mary are training for Super Bowl LII. No, they’re not pumping iron, practicing offensive and defensive plays or answering questions from sports journalists. But, as part of their Sport and Leisure Management (SLM) program headed by Myron Schulz, they are preparing to work activities at the Super Bowl so the thousands of people visiting the city of Minneapolis and attending the big game can have the best possible fan experience— one that is second to none.

“It’s huge,” stated Sturgeon Bay, WI, native August Taylor, about their opportunity. He’s one of six students from the University of Mary who’s part of what is called Crew 52, a volunteer group named by the organization after the numerical order of this year’s Super Bowl.

Taylor is a junior SLM major, with a marketing minor.

Bismarck Tribune photographer Tom Stromme snaps a photo of the students after loading up their rental vehicle as they prepare to leave for Minneapolis and Super Bowl LII.
Left to right, advisor and faculty member Myron Schulz; Reed Feeland, Bismarck; August Taylor, Sturgeon Bay, WI; Shawnee Unruh, Beulah, ND; Alex Hair, Sioux Falls.
Not pictured are Clay Bassingthwaite, Wahpeton, ND, Jack Evenson, Minneapolis

“A career goal of mine has been to work in sports in some capacity” Taylor added. “I have always heard ‘do what you love and never work a day in your life.’ I love the culture that the sport industry presents. It is so much more than just the game. There is so much more that goes into it. The business aspect of the industry, the planning, organizing, communication, and just the thought that goes into it is something I’ve always been attracted to. The Super Bowl is the center of the American sports industry. Yea, having that experience on a resume is something that will make you stand out, but actually having a takeaway or a fruitful learning experience is what I yearn for the most from this trip.”

Shawnee Unruh, a senior from Beulah, ND, loves her home state, but admits she may have to move out of state to fulfill her career goals and dreams of someday working for a professional sports organization or an NCAA Division I college.

“This experience has given me the confidence to do that,” Unruh added, a Sport and Leisure Management major. “It’s no longer just a thought, but a reality. Therefore, I’d say it’s provided me with more of an open mind and the thought that I could really attain my goal of working for one of those organizations in the future.”

It’s easy for Taylor, Unruh and their four other “teammates” to draw parallels between the work they’ve had to put in, and the grind that the two NFL teams and players endure to get this momentous occasion—only at a different level. All six and their advisor, Schulz, spent just over two years in and out of class making contacts, going through an extensive application process, and meeting and networking with new people to finally land this gig of a lifetime.

“Getting in contact with these people really opened my eyes to how big of an event the Super Bowl truly is,” added Taylor. “The amount of people and moving parts that goes into organizing an event of this capacity is no easy thing to wrap your mind around. Communication, planning, and instruction needs to be direct and clear with tens of thousands of people for the event to be a success. In contacting these directors, this became very evident. We have put so much time and effort in these months leading up to the event to just get our foot in the door. To just be at the event or in the same city of the event can be a once in a lifetime experience. I hope to take it all in because we are truly so blessed for the opportunity as is.”

The students just returned from the Twin Cities after a day of training last week that will allow them to work the Super Bowl Experience event January 31 through Feb 2 in the Minneapolis Convention Center. They didn’t unpack, but instead added to their suitcases this past weekend as they prepared to leave again today (Tuesday) to work the event and also train for a 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift on Sunday, February 4, called GameDay.

“We attended one session last week Thursday and will be training the morning before each of our shifts,” said Unruh. “It’s all hands on. A person could sit in a classroom and talk about it, but it becomes more realistic once your there doing the work.”

Taylor and Unruh are both from small town America, so they feel very fortunate to have been part of such a high-caliber SLM program at Mary.

“Not everybody gets an opportunity like this so I’m very thankful to be a part of the whole process. I’ve met new people along the way and made valuable connections and look forward to making more in the future. Where I come from you don’t really expect to have this chance: you may dream about it like I did, but there’s still that feeling of doubt just because you come from a small town. Now that we — the students and the university — have our foot in the door, we sort of have an idea as to how the whole process plays out. There’s also numerous upcoming events within the next year that could provide future students with a chance to have a similar experience: for example, the NCAA Final four, the WNBA All Star Game, and the Division I Women’s College Volleyball Championships. Overall, it’s going to open a lot of doors for those old and new. I think this opportunity opens up a lot of doors, not just for the individuals experiencing it first-hand, but also for upcoming students…” added Unruh.

Neither Taylor nor Unruh have been to a Super Bowl. Taylor doesn’t care who wins. But Unruh, on the other hand, it’s a pretty easy choice for this North Dakota girl.

“I think I’m in the same boat that most North Dakotans are. It would be pretty awesome to see someone like Carson Wentz win a Super Bowl—whether he’s playing or not. He’s been a great role model and representative of this state and I think he definitely deserves it even if he’s not on the field. He’s been a huge part of their success. So if I had to choose it would probably be the Eagles.”

With this type of opportunity and hands-on experience, it’s safe to say, no matter who hoists the Lombardi Trophy this Sunday, the Patriots or the Eagles, the real winners will be these six Sport and Leisure Management students in the Gary Tharaldson School of Business at the University of Mary.

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Sport & Leisure Management Students in the Gary Tharaldson School of Business going to Super Bowl
Reed Feeland, Bismarck, ND

August Taylor, Sturgeon Bay, WI

Shawnee Unruh, Beulah, ND

Alex Hair, Sioux Falls, SD.

Clay Bassingthwaite, Wahpeton, ND

Jack Evenson, Minneapolis, MN