Grand Prix Board Members share their experiences serving in the student organization
There are many traditions and activities specific to Purdue's campus that make the student experience unique. Of the long-standing traditions, Purdue's Grand Prix, once dubbed, "The greatest spectacle in College Racing," may be one of the most exclusive and exciting activities that all Purdue students can take part in.
In order to ensure all activities occur and Grand Prix is successful, students are interviewed and selected to serve in leadership roles such as the Senior Board. This year, the AgEcon Department is well represented on Purdue's Grand Prix Senior Board, including four undergraduate students serving in roles from President to Director of Scoring. We caught up with them to share how they became board members and their experience.
Drew Kelham (Applied Agricultural Economics; Fishers, IN)
Senior Board Position: Director of Scoring
- How did you get involved in Grand Prix? "I got involved in Grand Prix, as a freshman, through a couple of my brothers in FarmHouse. I wanted to be involved in an organization that was outside of the College of Ag, so I could meet more people across campus."
- What specific roles/responsibilities do you have? "Over the last year I have served as the Director of Scoring, which makes me in charge of anything that has to do with scoring during the race. I am responsible for connecting with teams to make sure their karts are equipped with the correct scoring technology and running the computers that keep track of the karts as they go around the track."
- What is the time commitment to serve in this role? "As the Director of Scoring, the majority of my heavy workload is in the spring semester, however I am responsible for spending time in the Grand Prix office on a weekly basis. Senior Board also has weekly meetings in the spring, and bi-weekly meeting in the summer and fall. Once the Grand Prix race gets closer, I am also responsible for going to all tech inspections, practices, qualifying races, and obviously the race."
- How are students selected to serve on the senior board? "Students are selected to serve on the senior board through an interview process. The group of senior board members who are not returning will vote on who they believe will fulfill the positions the best."
- How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your experience/grand prix in general this year? "COVID has made Grand Prix extremely difficult, as we went almost a whole entire year not knowing if we were going to have a race or not. We are also not allowed to have spectators like a normal year, so this makes it hard from a ticket sales standpoint. Since we haven't known for sure if we were going to be able to have a race, we have also had trouble with sponsors committing to donating to Grand Prix. All of our events that we have had also have taken a longer time due to everyone having to adhere to all of the COVID guidelines."
- What challenges or surprises have you experienced through this role? "The one thing that surprised me the most as the Director of Scoring is how much technology goes into the race. We use a system to score our karts that is similar to a system you would see in a professional racing setting. It is very cool to have the opportunity to learn how all of the racing and scoring technology works."
- Have you enjoyed your experience or would you recommend it for others – if so, who would you recommend it for? "I have definitely enjoyed my time spent on Grand Prix and would recommend it to anyone who has any interest in it! The cool thing about Grand Prix is that if you don't like the technology or mechanical parts of racing as much, there is an opportunity to do things such as run our social media or work on gaining sponsors. There is a lot of opportunities within the Purdue Grand Prix Foundation, and it had also allowed me to have connections outside of my specific college."
- What is one thing that you will remember most when reflecting back on your experience a couple years after it ended? "The one thing I will remember the most is how to adjust to what is given to you in situations. We have had to adjust all year long to be able to make the race or any of our events happen with the pandemic going on. The hard work that has been put into Grand Prix has definitely payed off."
Ashley Porter (Quantitative Reasoning; Livermore, CA)
Senior Board Position: Director of Business
- How did you get involved with Grand Prix? "I decided to get involved with Grand Prix after some encouragement from a senior in the College of Ag who had been involved in the organization. Senior Board members are selected through an application and interview process hosted by outgoing Senior Board members. As a member of the Senior Board I serve as the Director of Business who does the business of Vice President and Treasurer. The Senior Board as whole not only facilitates an annual race but promotes student involvement throughout the university while collaborating with other board members and alumni to continue to improve the organization. Board members also work with Junior Board members who help in the functions of the organizations.
- How has the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Grand Prix? "One of the biggest challenges that we have faced may be an obvious challenge. Hosting a race during COVID that is usually packed with spectators and a week full of activities that thrive on student involvement has taken a lot of collaboration and creativity to maintain the tradition. The current Senior Board is mainly filled with members who have never served on the senior board during a live race, so we have been able to come up with new ideas to promote the race in such a challenging year.
- What is one thing that you will remember most when reflecting back on your experience a couple years after it ended? "I have enjoyed my time on Senior Board and am excited to finish out the year. I will definitely remember and take with me the lesson, that you have to go with the flow. This year through Grand Prix, I have learned to adapt to the continually changing atmosphere and regulations at Purdue. I am looking forward to watching the race for the first time and watching the work of all the Senior Board members come full circle."
Tommy Gutwein (Sales & Marketing; Rensselear, IN)
Senior Board Position: Co-Director of Sales
- How did you get involved in Grand Prix? "During my junior year I was finishing up with a different leadership role and wanted to maintain my level of involvement, however, I was looking for something outside of the College of Ag. A few of my friends were on Grand Prix and it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
- What does the senior board do? What specific roles/responsibilities do you have? "The Purdue Grand Prix Foundation's Senior Board is responsible for the planning and execution for a Purdue tradition that has been around since 1958. The annual race has evolved into a historic week on campus. Within the foundation, I serve as one of the Co-Directors of Sales. This means one other member and myself are responsible for developing community partners and raising over $35,000!"
- What is the time commitment to serve in this role? "Senior Board is a huge time commitment. Each week we have at least one meeting, often two or three. On top of the meetings, we have three hours of office hours each week. Despite the time commitment, Grand Prix is an organization you never get tired of!
- How are students selected to serve on the senior board? "Typically, students join the Junior Board and then are selected to serve on Senior Board the next year. The elections are done by the board members who will not be coming back the next year. To join JB, you simply fill out an application in the fall and sit through a short interview."
- How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your experience/grand prix in general this year? "A little over a year ago myself and the rest of the foundation were tasked with canceling the race. After all of the hard work this was incredibly disappointing. This year has certainly been a challenge. After filing multiple exception forms, we are still moving forward with the race!"
- What challenges or surprises have you experienced through this role? "This year has made it especially difficult to raise money for the foundation. Companies are concerned about committing to something during these times of uncertainty. We are incredibly thankful to those who are still willing!"
- Have you enjoyed your experience, or would you recommend it for others – if so, who would you recommend it for? "Grand Prix has been a great experience for me. I would highly recommend this organization to other students."
Molly Grotjan (Agrimarketing; Zionsville, IN)
Senior Board Position: President
- How did you get involved in Grand Prix? "I became involved with Grand Prix at the end of my freshman year. A few friends recruited me to join the Senior Board."
- What does the senior board do? What specific roles/responsibilities do you have? "The Senior Board works to plan and facilitate the annual Purdue Grand Prix, in addition to coordinating our Queen Program and Scholarship Program. They also lead a Junior Board committee. As President, I have the honor to lead the organization by facilitating meetings, working with campus partners, and coordinating organization development and alumni projects. It has been such a growing and fruitful experience to serve in this role this past year!"
- What is the time commitment to serve in this role? "As President, I typically spend around 10-15 hours per week working on Grand Prix. Those hours could be spent in meetings or working with the team."
- How are students selected to serve on the senior board? "Students are selected to serve on the Senior Board through an extensive process, which includes an application, interview, and vote."
- How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your experience/grand prix in general this year? "COVID-19 has certainly impacted Grand Prix this year. Translating meetings into a hybrid setting, planning ahead in a year of uncertainty and setting the organization up for future success has been an interesting experience. Nonetheless, it's been an opportunity to learn how to adapt and grow."
- Have you enjoyed your experience or would you recommend it for others – if so, who would you recommend it for? "I would certainly recommend this experience to others who have a passion for Purdue, are interested in executing a large event, and want to develop as a professional."
- What is one thing that you will remember most when reflecting back on your experience a couple years after it ended? "When reflecting back on my experience, I will always be grateful to lead this dynamic organization during such an unprecedented time! What a unique opportunity to learn about scenario planning and fostering community."
Sam Getz (Agribusiness Management; Wolcott, IN)
Junior Board Position: Assistant to the Director of Scoring
- How did you get involved in Grand Prix? "I am a sophomore studying Agribusiness Management and my first involvement in Grand Prix Junior Board started after I applied and was accepted into the Purdue Grand Prix Foundation."
- What does the junior board do? "The junior board's main responsibilities are to assist the senior board representatives in promotions, business, and race aspects"
- What is your position on the board? "I am an assistant to the Director of Scoring which means I am responsible for aiding the Director of Scoring throughout practices, qualifications, and race day. The scoring crew has arguably the best seats on the track which makes my position very entertaining and exciting."
- What is the time commitment to serve in this role? "A normal week as a member of the junior board requires at least one hour in the Grand Prix office performing certain tasks administered by the senior board. As race day approaches, more hours per week are required because I am responsible for setting up the electronic scoring system and making sure every team has a fully functioning transponder."
- Have you enjoyed your experience or would you recommend it for others – if so, who would you recommend it for? "My role has been fantastic and I would recommend anyone interested to apply."
- What is one thing that you will remember most when reflecting back on your experience a couple years after it ended? "One memory I will have when reflecting on my experience was the opportunity to meet many motivated, focused, and friendly individuals involved in the Purdue Grand Prix Foundation. I have truly enjoyed this experience and it has been well worth my time and energy."