From Hawkeye to Blackhawk

Editor’s NoteThe following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.



IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa men’s gymnast Mark Springett spent his summer representing a different type of hawk: A Blackhawk.
Springett, and 19 of his Iowa classmates, participated in an exclusive sports practicum with the Chicago Blackhawks in July. The practicum — led by the director of the sports and recreation program, Dan Matheson — allows students to gain work experience with a prestigious professional organization.
“We go to Chicago every year for competitions, but this was a different experience,” Springett said. “It was great to be there with 19 new friends and enjoy the city together.”
The students kicked off the two-week venture by meeting with Adam Kempenaar, senior director of new media and creative services, and other Blackhawks executives, where the group was broken up into smaller teams to work on various projects. These projects included researching creative ways to use social media and implementing new brands for the Blackhawks.
In a frenzy of 24 hours, the Dover, Massachusetts, native made calls to every NHL team, taking notes for his research project to prepare for his group’s presentation to Blackhawks executives.
After practicing their presentations dozens of times over the previous week, Springett’s group, along with the rest of the students, presented their findings to the Blackhawks.
“The feedback from the Blackhawks’ executives was all very positive,” Matheson said. “The Blackhawks were complimentary of the creativity of some of the ideas and quality of the booklets that were handed out at the presentations.”
The final part of the trip included staffing the annual Blackhawks Convention. The students played an event management role from registering fans to helping run autograph sessions.
Kempenaar, an Iowa alum, has continued to work with Matheson to bring Iowa students to Chicago.
“It’s beneficial to have so many eager, outside eyes take a close look at the Blackhawks’ brand and provide feedback on how we can get better in all facets of our business operation,” Kempenaar said. “Perhaps more vitally, the service the students provide assisting at our annual Blackhawks Convention is invaluable.”
Springett is part of a continuing trend to include student-athletes in these practicums. With rigorous school and practice schedules, practicums provide the perfect opportunity for student-athletes to gain real-world experience.
“I knew I needed to get experience in my field,” Springett said. “It is what is expected these days and this is the most prestigious practicum that the program offers.”
Matheson recognizes the unique traits that student-athletes bring to the practicum.
“Mark, like all the Hawkeye student-athletes who have participated in my practicums over the years, brought a work ethic, time management skills, and coach-ability — qualities that I believe the student-athlete experience helps to instill,” Matheson said.
“I receive about 60-70 applications each year and I give student-athletes the nod when all other things are equal in their applications. I understand the difficulty student-athletes face when trying to squeeze internships in their busy lives.”
Reflecting on his time in Chicago, Springett comes back with knowledge of what it is like working with one of the most successful sports organizations in the country.
“You have a better understanding of how things work,” Springett said. “There are things about this industry you don’t learn in the classroom. It’s nice to have a high GPA, but you need to have these experiences.”