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Internships gave students many experiences, life lessons

Daktronics truck and trailer mentioned in sport recreation management feature
Kirsten Weifenbach said the highlight of her internship by far has been learning to drive a large truck and trailer across the country,

While serving as sales interns for Daktronics, three current and former South Dakota State University students have traveled thousands of miles while visiting more than half the United States. Throughout the venture, they have learned more than the inner workings of Daktronics.
 
The individuals are serving as interns to complete requirements for master’s degrees in sport and recreation administration. They stated they appreciate the opportunity to see the nation firsthand and experience the work environment.
 
According to Bryan Romsa, an assistant professor in sport management, the program has grown 86% to 130 students at the undergraduate level and 367% to 28 students at the graduate level in the past five years. In addition to that growth, students have been exposed to more partnerships and internships. The program is in the College of Education and Human Sciences' School of Health and Consumer Sciences.
 
Road warrior
Through visiting 32 states, Jacob Lackas ’21 has learned a lot.

Jacob Lackas as a Daktronics booth in San Antonio
Jacob Lackas at a Daktronics booth.

“This internship has been a great experience. I’m traveling the U.S. and seeing places I’ve never been to. I’m also learning how to adjust to situations on the fly,” he said. “Every trip has given me the opportunity to explore new cities I’ve never been to.
 
“I’ve also worked with many different salespersons, giving me a better overall understanding of different sales approaches and interactions with customers,” continued Lackas, a native of Lennox. “This internship really introduced me to the world of sales. At first, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do following graduation. Thanks to this internship, I now have a path I'm looking at following and so it really helped me in terms of that.”
 
And he’s learned a few things about himself.
 
“One of the things I learned was that I didn't have that drive or want to push out of my comfort zone of engagement with customers,” he said. “In past jobs, I have always just been ordered around and told what to do. In sales, it's different where you're not being told what to do every second of the day. I originally found myself standing off to the side and letting the sales reps do all the work and talking when around customers at shows.
 
“Since learning this about myself, I have made it a goal to be the one to approach customers and start that conversation rather than letting the sales rep do so or waiting for the customer to approach me,” Lackas continued. “Not only did this help with customer engagement in our product, but it also made things more exciting being more involved in the process.”
 
Lackas said sport and recreation administration classes helped him understand the importance of planning and teamwork. Those areas paid off during the internship, particularly when interacting with the sales professionals and prospective customers.
 
While he has had personal growth, Lackas said a highlight was hearing Alabama football coach Nick Saban speak at a Texas high school coaches convention.
 
“I was blown away by his answers relating to various different topics of football, coaching, discipline, etc.,” Lackas said. “The internship has helped with professional skills of time management, teamwork, people skills and project planning.”
 
Seeking opportunities
Joel Fleming said the sport and recreation management program encouraged him to seek different opportunities and make the best of them.
 
“I have discovered strengths and weaknesses and have worked to improve on those weaknesses. The internship has given me insight on what I would like to pursue following graduation,” said Fleming, who is from Rapid City. “In sport and recreation, things can sometimes be unpredictable. While traveling, we sometimes encounter unpredictable events, and the sport and recreation program has taught me to adapt and problem-solve in unpredictable situations.
 
“I've learned a lot just by going to new places and interacting with different people,” he continued. “The sales team at Daktronics is always willing to help and answer any questions so it's a great opportunity for growth.”
 
Fleming will return to classes in spring 2022 after focusing on the internship this fall.
 
Busy, busy
Previously, sport and recreation management students worked events such as the South Dakota high school football championships, The Summit League Championships, the Sanford International PGA Senior Tournament and helped when ESPN’s “College GameDay” visited SDSU.
 

Kirsten Weifenbach at a Daktronics display
Kirsten Weifenbach stands at a Daktronics display. The native of Winona, Minnesota, has been involved in many activities as an SDSU student.

Kirsten Weifenbach, a native of Winona, Minnesota, was one of the individuals who worked those on-campus and in-state events. As a result of those experiences and her interactions during the internship, she believes she’s developed her own style of working with others.
 
“The SRM program has taught me so many things, but some highlights are how to work as a team while on the road,” said Weifenbach, who balanced work with online classes. “It’s provided me an insight to the athletics world to better sell Daktronics products to some schools that might be on the fence. It’s also taught me how to appropriately manage my time while on the road and in the office.
 
“The highlight of my internship by far has been learning to drive a large truck and trailer across the country,” she continued. “Before the internship, I was not at all familiar with pulling a trailer behind me down the road. Now I can say not only am I a confident driver in that aspect, but I’ve also been able to drive across the country and see areas of the U.S. I’ve never been able to see before.”
 
Romsa said there are other skills learned than driving or seeing the sights.
 
“Joel, Jacob and Kirsten are prime examples of the quality of students we have,” Romsa said. “Students from universities across the country apply for these highly competitive sales internships at Daktronics, and for our program to have earned and secured three of those validates the high-quality students we are producing. Having our students representing the sport and recreation management program and SDSU as they travel across the country is very exciting and rewarding.”
 
Lackas agrees.
 
“I am very thankful for Daktronics allowing me this opportunity to not only travel the country, but also to grow and learn in ways that will always benefit me going forward.”