Friday, March 3, 2017

Six University of Iowa student interns took part in the Iowa JPEC RAGBRAI internship this summer. They gained experience in business consulting and event coordination, and played an important role in helping Iowa businesses and communities capitalize on the economic impact of RAGBRAI.

The Iowa JPEC RAGBRAI Internship Program was started in 2015 by University of Iowa professors Bob Walker and Philip Jordan. At the time, they were teaching an Iowa JPEC undergraduate consulting course at the Tippie College of Business and recognized the learning potential that RAGBRAI held for their students. After meeting with RAGBRAI coordinators and several town committees, the internship program was created.

The goal of the internship is for students to discover ways to maximize and sustain the economic impact of RAGBRAI for local businesses. Students must be fully involved in the town’s RAGBRAI activities from start to finish, and are expected to meet with and serve as active members on the town’s planning committee, corresponding at least weekly with the town and the business they will be assisting. In 2015, students worked with Solon’s town committee to organize a hay bale toss and photo booth, incorporating elements of Solon’s Beef Days to capture riders’ attention.

This year, students worked with Wooden Wheel Vineyards in Keota and Ardon Creek Vineyard and Winery in Letts. Staff at Wooden Wheel Vineyards commended two student interns for their help with setting up directional signs the night before the riders arrived and holding things together during a particularly hectic stretch of the pass-through day. The staff at Ardon Creek also expressed their gratitude for the Iowa JPEC RAGBRAI interns, stating that the interns helped make RAGBRAI a “crazy good” day for the winery.

Charlie Goodwin, an Iowa JPEC RAGBRAI intern consulting with Wooden Wheel Vineyards, says, “The main accomplishment was being able to successfully aid the vineyard on the day of RAGBRAI. In the weeks leading up to RAGBRAI, we made an impact on almost every aspect of the event, from food choices to beverages to marketing. We were able to handle the 5,000+ riders, and make a great economic impact on the vineyard.”

His biggest takeaway from the internship was learning how to work with people of different age groups and experience levels, which he said contributed to the success of the consulting project and also taught him a lot about the process of entering a new industry. “We walked into an industry that we knew nothing about, and in the end became knowledgeable of the process. If we hadn’t learned how to work with a group of older, established business owners, we never would have accomplished anything.”

Next year, Iowa JPEC expects to grow the internship program and continue to aid local businesses on the RAGBRAI route.