Marian College launches motorsports curriculum: Classes to focus on business side of racing

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This fall, Marian College will begin offering a unique curriculum focused on the business of motorsports.

Initially, motorsports-related classes will be offered within Marian’s sports management program, but school officials said they’d like to expand the program to offer a minor and major in motorsports management.

Unlike programs at Purdue University, IUPUI and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Marian’s courses will not focus on computers and engineering. Instead, the program will instruct students in marketing, communications, sales and business management in motorsports.

“We’ve seen that this motorsports initiative is really growing locally as well as globally and needs business leadership,” said Marian College President Daniel J. Elsener. “We’re building our program from the ground up, and we’re aligning to make a big bang in this arena.”

The first class to be offered in the fall will be “HPE 380: Survey of the Motorsports Industry.” Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chief Operating Officer Joie Chitwood has been tapped as an adjunct instructor. Marian, which has an enrollment of 1,200, will also count on one of its newer faculty members, Leigh Ann Danzey-Bussell, who is a professor with significant experience in NASCAR operations.

“I think there’s a pent-up demand for a program like this, and we have the resources here and a good location near many motorsports-related companies to launch this program,” said Mike Hudson, a Marian College trustee and a member of the governor’s task force on motorsports. “I think the liberal arts approach that Marian College has will be a powerful tool.”

The initial course addresses such topics as history of the industry, growth of the sport nationally and worldwide, and economic impact of the industry for cities that host races. A survey of sanctioning organizations, industry-specific attributes and a look at career opportunities also are included.

Marian officials hope to expand class offerings in 2006.

Despite IMS’ involvement, Elsener said, “This program goes well beyond the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It will offer comprehensive studies in many facets of the business of motorsports. This is about the entire industry.”

Marian, a liberal arts college owned and operated by the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg, has worked closely with Gov. Mitch Daniels’ staff and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to develop the curriculum.

Matt Steward, IEDC’s director of motorsports development, said Marian has been a big part of forging a unique joint venture.

“This is a good example of how an academic institution, the private sector and government agencies can come together to form a win-win situation,” Steward said. “This will be an invaluable tool for the people interested in getting into the industry as well as a place to turn for motorsports companies looking for qualified employees in an increasingly sophisticated sector.”

Doug Boles, chief operating officer for locally based Pennzoil Panther Racing, stressed the importance of Marian’s connecting with motorsports companies to make the curriculum relevant.

“As much as you can learn in school, it’s a relatively unique business that requires experience in the trenches,” said Boles, who got his start working on motorsports initiatives while a member of former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith’s economic development staff. “They need to have a spectrum of motorsports folks involved.”

Marian’s Elsener promises a robust internship program will be a part of the curriculum.

“That’s already in development,” he said.

Boles said there’s only one place for an effort like Marian’s.

“If a school is going to do something like this, it needs to be done in Indiana,” Boles said. “It’s centrally located, but more importantly we have so many of the significant players in this industry right here.”

The state, IEDC and Marian are eager to come together to build an industry that a recent state-commissioned study showed, in central Indiana alone, has more than 400 motorsports-related companies and provides more than 8,000 jobs.

“There’s 33-percent growth projected in this industry from 2002 to 2007,” Steward said. “We want to do everything we can to see this sector continue to grow and we think a program like Marian College is offering will be a big part of that.”


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