Internship helps prep Catawba senior for real world
Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 19, 2017
SALISBURY — Catawba College senior Melody Daggett credits her internship at Charlotte Motor Speedway with helping her get real-world ready.
This Winchester, Va., native has spent her life around cars, car shows and races, but her internship with the speedway’s director of communications, Scott Cooper, has been particularly enlightening when it comes to life behind the scenes in professional motorsports.
“We’re definitely given responsibility for things that make a difference and it’s really cool to be trusted for this responsibility,” says Daggett, an integrated marketing communications major. “It’s not what I thought I would be doing when I went into this internship, I thought we would be stocking coolers, making copies, etc., but what I’ve been doing is a little bit of everything.
“There’s a lot of set-up for individual events, including setting up the press room for the media. A daily routine for me is searching for reports on the speedway each week — going through these databases via Cision and TVEyes to create reports regarding unique clicks, individual users and the value of the traffic through placed ads and mentions in various stories.”
Daggett’s internship began in late August and will continue until after she graduates in May, “when the Coca-Cola 600 is over,” she says.
On non-event weeks, she has worked Tuesdays and Thursdays, while on event weeks, her schedule at the speedway might fill five or more days each week.
“They like us to be at all events. We help out with getting statistic reports for the media and make sure they’re happy.”
The events she has worked so far include the Bank of America 500, the MXGP event (a European circuit event – a first for the speedway), NHRA drag racing, the Auto Fair, Drive for the Cure 300, Bojangles Pole Night, the Eggnog Jog (a Christmas 5K) and the speedway Christmas event.
“This internship has definitely opened my eyes to motorsports as a whole,” Daggett says. “This is a very comfortable place to go work – everyone in motorsports is great – people are happy to go to work every day. Everybody loves their job at the speedway, and I want a career like that where everyone is happy.”
Daggett says the speedway required an internship project for its various interns this fall. While she is one of six interns in the marketing, communications and public relations area — or MarCom area — of the speedway, she’s among 10 interns from different areas collaborating on an internship project. She brings her experience in the speedway public relations office to bear on the project.
“We have to come up with an event, from beginning to end, for the speedway, complete with budget reports, details for setup and tear down and a schedule. It’s interesting to see how every department works together and it gives you insights into what the different departments do every day.”
Daggett and her team planned a professional bull riding contest.
“We wanted to have an event that wasn’t so N.A.S.C.A.R. It would be held at the dirt track. The clean-up and the set-up would be the worst parts because dealing with the animals is a big liability and concern.”
Prior to this internship experience, Daggett’s familiarity with the speedway had been from the outside looking in. Her family had vacationed in the area to attend car shows and races at the venue. It was while on one of those family vacations to an event at the speedway that she discovered Catawba College.
“I knew I wanted to go to a small school for college and we saw the sign off I-85 for Catawba, and my parents pulled off the exit,” she remembers. “We walked through the campus and then scheduled an appointment a month or two later and took the campus tour. I had already applied to two other schools, but I stopped my applications there as I came and visited Catawba.”
Now a scant six months away from graduating, the 21-year-old Daggett is looking forward, expecting her internship experience to help her land a job.
“Come May, I’ll walk across the stage and get my degree and I have to have a job,” she shares. “I’m definitely starting my search and I’d rather do it now than in April when everyone is hired. You need that step up advantage to trying to find it before everyone else starts looking. I don’t want to be put on a waitlist and just wait for a job.
“I feel like I’ve made contacts I’ll use there (at the speedway) — even with the professors here. In the business school, all of them have worked in the field and networking is important — sometimes it’s one of the most important things in getting a job. Having experience in the field has definitely helped me realize that that is what I want to do. And I want to stay in Charlotte.
“My whole experience at Catawba has been better than what I thought, and it’s gone by way too fast. I didn’t think I would be opened up to all the opportunities that I have here, but it has been a door of opportunities and it’s definitely flown by.”
Ironically, Daggett was not sure whether she wanted to go to college or to simply to go to work in the family business.
“I’ve been in the garage since before I was born. I’ve always lived in a garage,” she says. “I don’t really know anything else but cars. My dad owns his own business. He does Rhino liners and sells accessories for vehicles. My dad worked in the auto business his whole life and decided he wanted to start his own business.
“I guess one of the reasons I decided to come to Catawba was that I wanted to make a name for myself as Melody Daggett. Going back home and running the business is still on my mind but not quite yet.
“My end goal was to do the best I can for myself, and in the end, if I learn how to manage my time here, so much the better. Everything I learn in my life leads up to me helping my dad and mom run and improve the family business. I am involved in the family business just in a different way.
“I want to have the qualifications to back up what I know. Within sports in general women are just a pretty face. I want to be able to prove to somebody that I’m not just a girl. I want to prove that I’m a girl, but I know what you’re talking about and I know what I’m talking about. Don’t shut me down because I have the voice of a woman.”