Dr. Sarah Memmi was unsure of how the assignment she had just given was going to work out.
Last semester was her first time teaching an equine marketing class in the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program. The assignment was to call someone working in the equine industry and pick their brain about what they do.
“From my own professional background and experience I think that is a really important tool for marketing yourself as a professional,” Memmi said. “One that, particularly when you’re younger, you don’t always know how to do well.”
Even after giving the students a list of suggested questions along with other guidance, Memmi still did not know how the exercise was going to pan out.
“I didn’t really know honestly, how the assignment would go over,” Memmi said. “Would they find it useful or not? What would they get out of it?”
The results, according to Memmi, were shocking. The students found the project to be extremely useful, and in at least one case, the simple conversation led to future opportunity.
“I was really astounded,” Memmi said.”Reading what they did, the students got a lot out of it.”
Oliver “Ollie” Alfir was a student in the class and used the assignment as a chance to talk to trainer Al Stall Jr., one of his heroes in the industry. Alfir, who was in his first year of the EIP after transferring to U of L from Indiana University, tracked down a phone number and reached out.
Stall was receptive and the two had a chat.
“Just had a conversation,” Alfir said. “Just were talking about the horses and how he got in the business, stuff like that.”
After their chat, Stall and Alfir made contact again, and the trainer offered him a job for the summer at Saratoga. Alfir, who started the job on Tuesday, was quick to accept.
“This will be perfect,” Alfir said. “I told him, ‘sign me up.’”
For Alfir, the summer opportunity was the cherry on top of what had already been a wonderful experience in the Equine Industry Program.
He had started out with an accounting major, which he said was “as boring as can be,” and joined the Equine Industry Program in order to chase something he was passionate about.
“I chose the equine program because I had heard it was amazing,” said Alfir, whose father was previously a trainer at Churchill Downs. “The teachers I got here have been the best teachers I’ve had in my entire life.”
“...They helped a lot, all the teachers are just passionate about the industry, like no others I’ve ever seen.”
Alfir’s experience fits in with program director Sean Beirne’s vision for the EIP, which Beirne said encourages students to get involved in the industry during their time at U of L.
“We encourage our students to really branch out and take advantage of their time here,” Beirne said. “If they can stay in town, pick up an internship or get some sort of job. Maybe it’s not something they want to do long term down the road, but at least it gets them exposure, it helps them figure out what they want to do.”
An intense, four-year track, the Equine Industry Program gives students the professional skills they need to succeed in the horse industry covering equine economics, marketing and law, among other topics. Small class sizes are emphasized along with individualized advising. For more information, visit business.louisville.edu/equine.