The School of Rodeo

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Apr. 22, 2013

The School of Rodeo

Trinity University students working to determine economic impact of the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo

Joel Van Essen conducts a marketing survey at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo
Joel Van Essen conducts a marketing survey at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo

By Susie P. Gonzalez

SAN ANTONIO - Although the Trinity University course catalog lists Marketing 3383 as "Marketing & Business Research," students call it "the rodeo class."

That's because when the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo rolls into town each February, students pull on cowboy boots, if they own a pair, and head to the carnival fairway and livestock pens near the AT&T Center to conduct market research.

Mario Gonzalez-Fuentes, visiting assistant professor of marketing at Trinity, said the goal of the course is to determine the economic impact of the rodeo to the city. Students spent two weekends surveying about 1,000 patrons and exhibitors, and they are still analyzing the data. The professor expects to present the findings to rodeo officials by late summer.

Trinity students Morgan Fisher, left, and Jacki Bruce pose near a gazebo that functioned as an Online Outpost for the Stock Show and RodeoA second focus of the class was an initiative based at the Online Outpost, a gazebo near the food court where rodeo patrons could charge smartphones. While there, the patrons were asked to provide email addresses to build a marketing database and answer a survey about social media use targeting the rodeo.

Jacqueline "Jacki" Bruce, a senior from Dallas and Boston who is majoring in marketing, said the smells she experienced while walking next to pigs and cows took her back to a childhood rodeo outing. Although Gonzalez-Fuentes had coached the students on how to approach strangers to administer a survey, the task required a learning curve. Bruce said she tried to fit in by wearing her cowboy boots. "It was one of the first times I've worn them, but I wore them."

The assignment took Santa Fe, N.M., native Joel Van Essen, a candidate for graduation in May with a degree in marketing and international business, out of what he called his "personal comfort zone" but was fun and rewarding. Interested in a career in marketing research, he said the analytical component of the class - compiling data and identifying trends - will strengthen his resume. In addition, the experience was fun. "It was a good cultural experience, especially for a non-Texan. I was walking around in shorts and a T-shirt while everybody else was all cowboyed up."

Brianna "Bri" Tammaro of San Antonio, candidate for graduation in May with a degree in communication and a sport management minor, said she had been to the rodeo many times but found value in what she called "hands-on work with actual clients." Describing the course as an elective, she nevertheless gained invaluable experience. "I'm applying for a job that asked if I knew how to do an economic impact. I can now say 'yes.'"

Gonzalez-Fuentes said the project gave students an opportunity to leave the "Trinity bubble" and give back to the community. He encountered many students who had never been to the rodeo, so the project allowed them to encounter people from all backgrounds while building their skills. "As any art major has a portfolio of artwork, I tell the students, 'This is part of your portfolio.'"

Susie P. Gonzalez is assistant director of University Communications and can be reached at