CUWAA students taking part in this year’s ‘ELO’ at Super Bowl LVIII come away with unmatched experiences, incredible memories, and a whole new appreciation for how these enormous events come together.

“These students aren’t just embarking on a career. It’s a lifestyle.”

So says Dr. Joey-Lynn Bialkowski, Executive Director of Career Services and associate professor at Concordia University Ann Arbor’s Haab School of Business, speaking about students enrolled in the Sport and Entertainment Business program at CUAA and CUW. In particular, she means those select students who worked last week at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas, part of a Experiential Learning Opportunity, or ELO.

By “lifestyle,” she’s talking about the commitment it takes. Working big events like this is a grind, with long hours, few breaks, and often lots of pressure. It’s super exciting, but it’s also not for everyone.

“We want to make sure they really understand what goes into working an event like this.”

For those who love it, the rewards can be great. It can certainly be lucrative, with the opportunity to travel the country—or even the world—getting a front-row, behind-the-scenes look at marquee sports and entertainment events. It’s also a lot of work.

Months of preparation

For the six Concordia students (from both CUWAA campuses) at this year’s event, it’s not just 10 days in Vegas. It’s months of planning and hard work to be ready for when everything seems to happen all at once.

  • Kendra Lewis (’24), Sport and Entertainment Business (CUAA)
  • Tara Drinane (’24), Hospitality and Event Management (CUAA)
  • Liam Kenney (’25), Sport and Entertainment Business (CUAA)
  • Sam Bowling, (’25), Sport and Entertainment Business (CUAA)
  • Eddie Braatz (’25), Sport and Entertainment Business (CUW)
  • Max Resch (’25), Sport and Entertainment Business (CUW)

“These events are very fast-paced, so it’s important for them to be prepared,” Bialkowski said. “We do real time immersive training beforehand. We want to make sure they feel confident in their abilities when they arrive, especially in soft skills such as critical thinking, communication, and emotional intelligence.”

With that in mind, students are selected for the opportunity not just by grades, but also according important “intangible” qualities. They’re looking for students who are mature, proactive, professionally curious, responsible, who take initiative, and are active listeners, to name just a few important traits.

Once they’re on the team, training begins in August and continues up to the time they leave for Las Vegas.

This year’s team also includes two industry coaches: Brynn Wheeler, VP of Events at Crimson Marketing and Public Relations, and Colton Turner, Senior Premium Executive at Sun Devil Athletics.

As for Bialkowski—who worked in the industry before turning to academic pursuits—her involvement begins more than a year ahead of time. By the time Super Bowl LVIII kicks off in egas, she has already been in contact with officials planning for Super Bowl LIX in New Orleans.

Beyond the game

While the big game is the highlight, it’s not the only thing students are involved in while they’re in town. This year, Bialkowski and her team arranged for the students to work a Vegas Golden Knights hockey game, the LIV Golf event in Vegas, a Fathead red carpet event with NFL great Shannon Sharpe, the NFL Opening Night event, the Super Bowl Experience venue, a major networking event at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and more.

“It’s all about access and opportunity,” Bialkowski said. “We want to make sure these students have the chance to be fully immersed in these hallmark events in order to grow their character and competence.”

For students who complete this ELO and put it on their resume, “it really opens doors,” Bialkowski said. “I’ve had industry contacts say to me, ‘Wow, I can’t believe these students are coming in with all this experience!’ Very few universities do this caliber of experiential learning; we’re part of a select few.”

In addition, Bialkowski and the department of Career Engagement and Industry Relations at CUAA will help students “unpack” the experience so they can properly describe it, not just on their resume, but in interviews, for networking, etc. After all, to say “I worked at the Super Bowl” is one thing; to be able to detail the most important parts of the experience takes it to another level.

“It’s important that they can spell out all the different experiences they’ve had,” she said. “Things like public relations, fan activation, media experiences, things like that. It’s a very broad-based opportunity they’re getting, and we want to make sure that comes through.”

The reality with the Super Bowl is that one team and half the fans go home disappointed. With this Experiential Learning Opportunity, everyone goes home a winner. Especially those students who can add a lifetime Super Bowl memory to an unbeatable learning experience.

Want in?

The Batterman School of Business at CUW offers a complete range of business education programs and degrees including associate’s and bachelor’s degrees for undergraduate and accelerated adult students, licensures, and certifications. Graduate programs include our highly ranked Master’s of Business Administration (with 13 concentrations), Master’s in Leadership, Accountancy, Business Analytics and a Doctor of Business Administration. Business undergraduate students also participate in the Concordia Core, a rigorous, liberal arts curriculum integrated with Lutheran distinctives.