ASU Online students work behind the scenes at the Super Bowl

22 Sun Devils travel to Las Vegas for experiential learning in event management


Five students stand in front of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

ASU students (from left) Karmyn Yocky, Jennifer Jacko, Kembly Gonzalez, Morgan Wessell and Dylan Barrett pose in front of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas before the 2024 Super Bowl. They were among 22 ASU event management students, including 12 ASU Online students, who traveled to Las Vegas to work at the game. Courtesy photo

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A dozen ASU Online students who made the trek from around the country to work at the Super Bowl experienced some incredible moments, such as hearing pop star Post Malone rehearse at Allegiant Stadium.

The online students joined 10 Sun Devils who attend Arizona State University in person to be part of the 2024 Super Bowl in Las Vegas.

The students were led by Erin Schneiderman, clinical assistant professor in the School of Community Resources and Development. She directs the school's event management program, which is offered as a minor and a certificate.

Over the busy five-day trip, the Sun Devils got to experience firsthand the enormous amount of work that goes into planning and executing one of the biggest events in the country.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into this, and who does that work is often a mystery, and now they know,” Schneiderman said.

“We were a small price of the entire process.”

Schneiderman’s goal for the Super Bowl experience with students is a combination of paid work, volunteer shifts — which is important to the NFL — and education. They attended a networking session at the University of Nevada Las Vegas with hundreds of other college students, held by NFL Teammates, the program that brings college students to the Super Bowl.

They got to chat with Michael Bidwill, owner of the Arizona Cardinals, who talked to them about being in the “family business” and answered their questions. They also met with ASU alumni who are working in the NFL and as broadcasters.

Several people kneel on a hotel floor in a group picture
Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill (back row in gray) met with the ASU group who traveled to the 2024 Super Bowl in Las Vegas to chat about owning an NFL team. Courtesy photo

“Our students were professional and completed every job asked of us, no matter what it was,” Schneiderman said.

Kembly Gonzalez, a tourism and event management major from California, drove 11 hours to Las Vegas for the trip.

“I’m 20 and this was definitely about adulting,” she said.

“I’ve never done a trip like this on my own.”

While she was originally interested in wedding planning as a career, the Super Bowl experience has made her reconsider.

“I think sports management might be cool to get into because my family is really big on sports,” she said.

Heidi Rohloff, a tourism and recreation management major from Oregon, did the trip because she wanted to personally meet some other Sun Devils — and Schneiderman.

Gonzalez and Rohloff were among five students in the Starbucks College Achievement Plan who traveled to Las Vegas.

The trip started with a welcome dinner on Wednesday night, when Schneiderman passed out ASU swag bags with T-shirts donated by the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“This was important for me because I wanted them to meet each other. They’re all Sun Devils from different walks of life,” she said.

On Thursday, the students worked a long shift at the NFL Experience, including a period at the beginning that’s reserved for fans with sensory issues — so no loud noises, throbbing music or flashes.

“This is to accommodate guests who might be overwhelmed,” Schneiderman said.

“For event students, it’s very cool to see that.”

Several people in red shirt pose in a group photo.
The ASU group poses for a group shot before working their shift at the NFL Experience in Las Vegas. Erin Schneiderman, clinical assistant professor in the School of Community Resources and Development, is in the front row at the far left. Courtesy photo

Volunteering at Taste of the NFL charity event consisted of stuffing 1,700 gift bags and taking care of exterior fan service — making sure entry went smoothly and directing guests to ride shares and shuttle buses.

On Friday, the team had paid training time at Allegiant Stadium, then they had a tour just in time to see Post Malone rehearsing “America the Beautiful” on the field. They were allowed to take photos and video but couldn’t post it until Monday.

“It was very cool. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing,” Schneiderman said.

Rohloff said the stadium tour highlighted all the last-minute preparations that are required.

“It has to be timed perfectly because of all the events coming and going,” she said.

Woman posing in Raiders locker room
Kembly Gonzalez, an ASU Online tourism and event management major from California, poses in front of the Las Vegas Raiders display at the NFL Experience. Courtesy photo

One of Gonzalez’s favorite parts of the week was meeting with staff from the Encore Production Company, who gave the ASU group a tour of the Mandalay Bay ballroom where the company was planning a VIP viewing party for Sunday night.

“We asked them, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ And one year someone pulled a plug to charge their phone and it disconnected everything,” she said.

Gonzalez said she enjoyed hearing how the organizers try to anticipate every potential problem — but something always happens.

“One person got past security (at the stadium) and ran through the ticket area and inside, and you could see the stress over that,” she said.

She was able to watch staffers work behind the scenes of the Gwen Stefani concert that was held outside of the stadium before the game.

“They said, ‘We don’t breathe until Monday morning,’” she said.

Rohloff said the trip taught her the importance of volunteers.

“There were some great interactions with our leaders, and sometimes it wasn’t perfect,” said Rohloff, 45, who manages a Starbucks store full time, takes a full load of coursework and has three children.

“So I saw the importance of treating your volunteers spectacularly because they’re in there working hard and giving up their personal time.”

Of course, the highlight was Super Bowl Sunday, when they left the hotel at 6:30 a.m. and were walking and standing almost the entire day.

Gonzalez worked the area just outside the stadium — after fans went through security and scanned their tickets.

“They kept telling us we were like Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse when you walk into Disneyland. I had to stand there with a smile on my face and welcome everyone to the stadium,” she said.

Selfie of woman at empty Las Vegas football stadium
Heidi Rohloff, an ASU Online tourism and recreation management major from Oregon, poses at Allegiant Stadium during the group's tour on Friday. Courtesy photo

Rohloff worked the media and disability-access entrance, making sure there was room for vehicles.

“We were on the Chiefs’ side and they were so excited,” she said.

“Right before the game started, there were fans who wanted to go in but didn’t have tickets, so we had positive interactions with them to keep them excited.”

The ASU group saw a lot of celebrities.

“We thought that celebrities would have a special area where they were dropped off, but they just walked in like anyone else,” Gonzalez said. 

The students got to see the pre-game fireworks and flyover, and after the first quarter, they walked to a nearby site where they could eat and watch the game and the halftime show. At the end of the third quarter, they went back to their stadium duties, where they worked until about 9:30 p.m.

While the Super Bowl is world famous, there are dozens of event-management opportunities for students year-round, including concerts, races and shows. Several ASU students worked at the WM Phoenix Open golf tournament, which was happening in Scottsdale the same weekend as the Super Bowl.

Gonzalez said she made dozens of new connections — personal and professional — during the trip, including scoring the business card of someone in the Las Vegas Raiders organization.

“The connections you make and the new friendships were really cool to experience,” she said.

Rohloff enjoyed applying the skills she learned in class.

“It’s great to see all the levels of leadership — the coach, the person doing the coordination and making sure you’re staying on task.

“You have listen to everything going on around you because things change quickly. It’s really applicable to your future,” she said.

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