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Midland University students display grit during Interterm class

Midland University students display grit during Interterm class

Feb 27th , 2020

In the midst of a hockey game, Nick Schreck realized what he wanted the goal of his interterm class to be. It all made sense once he saw Gritty.

Schreck, Midland University Assistant Professor of Digital Marketing, attended a professional hockey game last year when Gritty caught his eye. Gritty is the furry, friendly-yet-somewhat-menacing looking, mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League. Until Gritty came along in 2018, the Flyers were the only team in the NHL without a mascot. As the Flyers realized they were missing out on marketing and community programs, they reached out to a local design company and Gritty was born. 

So how does a mascot inspire a professor when it comes to teaching a branding and soft skills class? “I had been reading two books, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth and “Brands Win Championships” by Jeremy Darlow,” he said. “I was trying to find a common theme between the two books I could use for my class. When I saw Gritty at the Flyers game, my thought was ‘this is perfect.”

Schreck wanted to find out early on what kind of grit his students possessed. Thanks to some help from the Nebraska National Guard, he found out. On the first day of class, students were put through a “boot camp,” complete with sit-ups, burpees, and even some archery tag (with foam arrows, of course). “There are different forms of grit, but when I think of grit, I think of physical grit, so I wanted to put that in context for our students. I wanted them to have a first day they wouldn’t forget,” Schreck said. “Turns out the only person that suffered any lasting effects from that first day was me. I was sore for about a week.”

But what followed over the next three weeks made Schreck feel a lot better. His class journeyed outside the walls of campus, making trips to various businesses throughout the metro area. Along the way, they learned what it takes to make a business successful, how to solve business problems, and also received a small glimpse of what their future might hold.

“I had two purposes for the class and that was to get our students into different businesses to see the different environments and for those businesses to put our students through challenges so they could see the level of talent we have at Midland,” Schreck said. “Experiential learning has proven to be an effective way students can absorb and utilize information. Getting them out and about, learning about business, and solving business problems is exactly what we strive to do in business school.”

For Cassandra Martin, the chance to explore life in the business world served as an eye-opener. “It was insightful to see all the skills they had to learn to build a business,” Martin said. “We struggled with some of the challenges they presented us, but that’s the real world. It will help us prepare for those types of jobs.”

Lexi Allard was grateful for the opportunities the course presented, believing it opened doors she, and other students, weren’t aware existed. “It was beneficial to me because not every business was the same, it was a huge range,” she said. “There were so many different work atmospheres. For me personally, I haven’t ventured out to places like this, so it gave me a new experience and new connections. You shouldn’t have to limit yourself because anything is possible.”

It also provided students the opportunity to learn that success in business doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen without a lot of drive and hard work. “The one thing I learned is that the CEOs of these companies did not have an easy road to success,” Conrad Mascarenhas said. “You have to put in the work.”

Realizing it takes hard work was an epiphany for students, something Schreck said he was very glad was imprinted on them as they visited various businesses. “The CEO of redthread (Adam Kroft) hammered home that sometimes it takes 80-hour workweeks to make a business successful,” Schreck said. “It was a great lesson because it made them realize if you work hard enough, you can accomplish this.”

Mascarehnas believed Gritty offered new opportunities to students and gave them a fresh perspective on a business world they will soon be embarking on. “I think this should be a mandatory class for anyone focused on marketing,” he said. “A lot of students feel uncomfortable being outside their comfort zone. This is an opportunity for them to think outside the box.”

Martin added that any edge students can gain is critical when they enter a competitive workforce. “We learned that through Gritty, if you keep trying, you’ll succeed,” she said. “Assuming you’ll be hired when you graduate is not a given. But having good educational skills, as well as social skills, will help you succeed.”

Schreck was pleased with the outcome of the innovative class, and was glad they got to enjoy themselves during the process. “We got to go down a slide at Firespring, eat pizza together, and play archery tag. Those aren’t things you would normally do in a marketing class,” Schreck said. “We had fun, but they also got to experience learning what they might want to do in the future and what it takes to be successful.”

After watching them in action, Schreck ended interterm with little doubt his students are ready for what lies ahead. “I think our students have a great chance of thriving in these positions,” he said. “One of the businesses we went to gave five of our students on-the-spot interview requests. That made me feel good about what we’re doing in the Dunklau School of Business. 

“I think anytime we can get students into businesses, and get them solving business problems, that’s a win for everyone. Businesses want talent, and we have it in spades at Midland.”