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Saturday, March 2, 2024

How NASCAR’s Diversity Internship Program is Preparing Future Industry Leaders

The program lasts ten weeks and places interns in a variety of roles.

The 2017 NASCAR Diversity Internship Class poses with Kyle Busch, driver of the №18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, following his victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. (Photo via NASCAR Multicultural Development/Getty Images)

For 10 weeks each summer, students interested in a career in NASCAR, get the chance of a lifetime thanks to NASCAR’s Diversity Internship Program (NDIP).

The program targets diverse, multicultural students who an enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program and have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Since the program’s inception in 2001, more than 350 interns have participated, with roughly 20% now employed in the motorsports industry.

About the Program

During their time in the NDIP, students engage in hands-on projects. It’s not simply a coffee fetching internship, but rather one where upon completion interns will possess the necessary skills to land a full-time job in NASCAR or the sports industry.

The program is overseen by Jordan Leatherman, Sr. Account Executive for NASCAR Multicultural Development. Leatherman actually participated in the program twice before taking a job away from NASCAR before coming back.

“My introduction to the Multicultural Development department began in 2014 when I was selected to participate in the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program and placed in the Multicultural Development department,” said Leatherman. “I participated in NDIP in 2015 at Switch: An Experience Agency, where I accepted full-time employment after completing my internship.”

Although she initially accepted a position on the agency side of NASCAR, when she saw a full-time opening in the sport’s Multicultural Department she jumped at the chance to return. Now, she oversees the very internship program that she participated in, in addition to the Drive for Diversity Program.

The biggest benefit of the internship, according to Leatherman, is that students truly dive into the NASCAR world.

“NDIP gets students fully immersed in the motorsports industry,” said Leatherman. “We begin the 10-week internship experience at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race for a three-day orientation. Students tour the NASCAR Hall-of-Fame, Research and Development Center and race teams. They also meet NASCAR executives, officials and drivers during the two race days. Throughout the internship, many attend races as part of their job duties, work on high-level projects and all interns participate in weekly lunch and learns with industry leaders.”

The mentorship aspect of the program is important too. Enrolled students are paired with former interns who are current industry leaders in NASCAR.

As for the 2017 class of interns? Many were collegiate student-athletes or students at an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).

A Profile of Summer 2017 Interns — Athletes and HBCU Students

Bria Dixon, Soccer, Virginia Tech University: Dixon graduated with a degree in Public Relations from Virginia Tech and was a member of the women’s soccer team all four years. She was an Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll Student and participated in the 2013 NCAA Collegiate Cup Final Four. During her time in the NDIP, she assisted with day-to-day operations and event marketing services for NASCAR’s regional series’ (NASCAR Whelen Modified Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West).

Zane Smith, Football, Southern Methodist University: A Mechanical Engineering student, Smith was known for working on homework during the plane rides to away games. He played linebacker at SMU for three seasons and earned numerous awards during his time on the gridiron. He is a motocross racer and served as the engineering intern for Toyota in Plano, Texas this summer.

Gregory Carty, Winston-Salem State University (HBCU): Carty received his B.S. in Sport Management from WSSU and is pursuing his M.A. in the same field from Old Dominion University. This year, he participated in the NDIP for the third time and was placed at Roush-Fenway Racing.

Dejah Gilliam, Johnson C. Smith University (HBCU): Gilliam had several internship opportunities in collegiate and professional sports before taking part in the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program. During her time in the NDIP, she put her B.A. in Communications to good use, working in the NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) department.

An Alumni Makes History

Early in the 2017 season, 26-year-old Jusan Hamilton became the first African-American to serve as a race director for an event in a NASCAR National Series, calling the shots for the NASCAR XFINTY Series race (one step below the top-tier Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) at Auto Club Speedway (CA) on March 25, 2017.

For the New York native, what began as participation in the NDIP with the sport’s Integrated Marketing Communications department led to a full-time position with the sanctioning body. Over the past four years, Hamilton has done the majority of his work with race operations and event management.

“I never really thought of (being the first African-American national series race director) in those terms. … I’m proud of it, and I’m really thankful for the team in the control tower,” Hamilton, whose job as race director includes making split-second decisions regarding officiating, safety and emergency services, told NASCAR.com.

“I’ve wanted to work in professional racing since I was a kid watching Kevin Harvick,’’ he said. “I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity. I’ve had the chance to learn so many different areas of the sport and business, that’s one of the things that’s best about working with NASCAR.”

The Next Success Story Could Be You

With the program in its 18th year, the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program continues to place outstanding students who are passionate about motorsports into full-time placements.

“We are excited about sourcing and developing top-level diverse talent. We encourage students who want to gain experience through a premiere sports internship to apply to NDIP18 to begin their sports careers,” said Dawn Harris, Senior Director of Multicultural Development.

Interested in learning even more about the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program? Follow @NASCARDiversity.

For more NASCAR articles follow @Kraig_Doremus on Twitter and Medium.

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

Front Office Sports is a leading multi-platform publication and industry resource that covers the intersection of business and sports.

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