USFSM alum Kathy Vu at the 2017 World Rowing Championships

USF Sarasota-Manatee helps out at rowing championships

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: September 28, 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 28, 2017) – It’s easily one of the area’s highest-profile events, garnering worldwide attention. The 2017 World Rowing Championships has drawn media globally to chronicle athletes from 69 countries over a week’s worth of competition.

And very much at the center of this whirlwind of racing-related activities at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota are a group of USF Sarasota-Manatee students and alumni.

They include familiar faces, such as Kathy Vu, who graduated this past spring with a degree in business marketing and management. Vu is now a marketing assistant with on-site event management/operations. She coordinates events, marketing campaigns and mascot appearances.

A former marketing director of USFSM’s Student Government and public relations officer of the rowing club, Vu said the rowing championships turned out to be an ideal fit after graduation.

“For months, I had driven by this venue on my way to class and I knew I wanted to be involved somehow,” she said. “It’s just such a huge, international event and it was right here in Sarasota. It’s very exciting.”

Initially, she pursued an internship but that soon transformed into a marketing position that brought her into the community. For months prior to the competition, she attended promotional events meeting people and handing out marketing materials. She also helped design a “passport” to highlight race-day events.

“It has been extremely fun,” Vu said. “There are a lot of long hours, but they’ve been enjoyable. I’m so happy to be a part of this.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee helps out at rowing championships

USFSM business management and marketing student Louie Carey at the rowing championships

Along with Vu are two USFSM students who become instantly recognizable to anyone attending the championships: Louie Carey and Dan Veitkus.

The two are emcees, interviewing athletes, describing the day’s events and, in general, energizing and entertaining the crowds. Their images appear on huge projection screens.

“The first day I was nervous, but that went away as soon as I started interacting with the crowd,” said Carey, a business marketing and management student. “Our job is to get people excited.”

Like Carey, Veitkus introduces the day’s races and conducts interviews. The 20-year-old biology student was involved in broadcasting baseball and basketball games at his previous school, so he had no qualms about working in front of a camera.

USF Sarasota-Manatee helps out at rowing championships

Daniel Veitkus, a USFSM biology student, at the rowing championships

When not filming, Veitkus and Carey alternate between a spot near the grandstands and the “fan fest” stage, tossing out T-shirts and stoking the audience.

“It’s been fantastic,” Veitkus said. “I’m really enjoying the interaction. It’s just a fantastic opportunity.”

Carey said he jumped at the prospect of participating.

Jay Riley, director of business outreach and engagement at USFSM, said he had no trouble finding volunteers. About 20 USF and USFSM students are signed up for the eight-day competition, which ends Sunday. Mostly, they assist visitors and athletes.

The welcoming ceremony saw USF mascot Rocky and more than a half-dozen USF cheerleaders and SunDolls. The campus’ Veterans’ Club hosted a booth for Military Appreciation Day on Wednesday, and throughout the week several USFSM student Ambassadors showed up. Dr. Karen Holbrook, executive vice president of USFSM, will present medals to athletes, as will Riley.

Riley recommended Vu for the marketing position and hand-picked Carey and Veitkus for the emcee jobs.

“I had the privilege to represent USFSM on the local organizing committee and worked with the executive director and staff of the 2017 World Rowing Championships to identify ways USFSM could support the event,” Riley said. “With our support we became an official partner of the event, and it’s been a great partnership.”

That partnership started long before the competition. Last spring, more than two dozen students from Dr. Joe Askren’s event management class met with organizers to pitch them on ideas for the VIP areas, from food to furniture.

The students divided into teams and made presentations as if making sales pitches to corporate “clients.” The organizers rated each team until a winner was chosen. Some ideas eventually were added to the final designs.

“The students did some amazing work on this real project that was connected to a real mega-sporting event,” said Askren who approached organizers a year ago. “The students gained confidence in their abilities to critically think and also networked with some amazing professionals.”

Those students include: Othaila Al Saifi, Megan Cadmus, Sarah Charles, Katherine “Katie” Ciemniecki, Kaylee Davis, Antoinette Fahie, Megan Freeman, Aida Ganiche, Skylar Garber, Emily Glasser, Jean “Jon” Guzman Quiles, Ryan Handwerk, Morgan Huson, Alexandra Kearney, Khalid Khalil, Daniel Kresge, Jessica Lake, Kimberly Micalizzi, Stephanie Parent, Alissa Rosas, Shealyn Spencer, Samuel Shore, Stephanie Thompson, Ashley Wojciechowski and Raquel Zegarra Del Valle.

For tickets or more information about the 2017 World Rowing Championships, please visit www.wrch2017.com.

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