WIU intern in Arizona makes local news

For WIU senior Mandy Alexander (Roseville, IL)–a recreation, park and tourism administration major who, earlier this month, finished up an internship with the town of Gilbert, Arizona–the warm weather and experience would have likely been enough to make her internship experience a memorable one.

But, in late March, a story about her work for Gilbert was published in The Arizona Republic (and on the AZCentral.com website), which provided an added bonus. The story, “College intern revs up Gilbert tourism approach,” talks about her work with a city official there to “improve Gilbert’s regional visibility.”

WIU RPTA Major Mandy Alexander working at her internship in Gilbert, Arizona

Mandy is pictured here with Gilbert’s Parks and Recreation Manager Scott Anderson. Mandy’s work for her internship was featured in The Arizona Republic article, “College intern revs up Gilbert tourism approach.”

Just as her internship was ending, Mandy answered a few questions about how she was able to secure her internship and about how the experience benefited her.

Q). How did your internship in Gilbert come about?
Since I had family in Arizona, I knew I would have a place to stay. Plus, the warm weather in the spring, I knew, would be a huge bonus. I went about this internship by just simply calling as many Convention and Visitors Bureaus, Chamber of Commerces, or any tourism- related businesses in the Phoenix Metro area, and asked if they had any tourism internship positions available. Out of several phone calls and emails, Gilbert seemed to match with my goals the best. This internship lasted from January 13-April 5.

Q). What was the most unexpected experience of your internship?
The most unexpected experience I had during the internship was having to present our Tourism Strategic Plan in front of the town mayor, town manager, all of Gilbert’s Town Council members, manager of economic development, and other higher end positions held within the town.

Q). What about your favorite experience or experiences?
Wow, it is hard to just pick one favorite moment because there were SO many exciting things that happened! I will say I became a regular at Bergie’s Coffee Roast House, which allowed me to meet some extraordinary people and become very familiar with Gilbert’s downtown area. The staff I worked within the Gilbert Parks and Recreation Department were exceptionally wonderful and easy to work with and willing to help me. I am so lucky to come across such a great internship experience.

Q). What kinds of tasks/activities do you do on a daily basis in your internship?
Day one of my internship, I was given a list of 10 goals from my agency supervisor, Scott Anderson. He was hoping I could make headway on this before my internship was over. I successfully completed all but a couple of these goals and the few that haven’t been completed are long term and were not able to be determined before my internship ended. The ten goals in “Scott’s 18-month Tourism Plan” included:

  1. Implement tourism website and maintain operation
  2. Assist in development of mobile app for Heritage District
  3. Assist in development of app for Riparian Preserve
  4. Assist in producing and distributing small wonders advertising guide/map
  5. Meet with Mesa CVB staff and discuss Prop 302 Fund
  6. Purchase Smith Travel report for Gilbert, Arizona
  7. Visitors’ Center (establish a concept) (location-long term)
  8. Develop an “Experience Gilbert Brochure”
  9. Identify 3-5 top advertising opportunities and begin campaign
  10. FAM tour development

Q). How do you think your internship experience will help you in your future career endeavors?
During this internship, I was able to provide Gilbert with a solid tourism foundation and a tentative plan for the future. I have always been passionate about tourism, and this internship was able to give me that full-time experience in the industry that I love. I have learned a great deal about advertising and promotions, professional communication, money management, preparing for presentations and presenting the material, helping develop the brochures and critique websites. These are only some of the many skills I learned in my internship. I believe they set me up with a good solid foundation for future opportunities.

Q). What are you career plans once you graduate?
I am keeping all options open at this point, but I definitely plan on applying for a position within the Town of Gilbert. I do believe I would like to pursue a full time job in Arizona; however, I will seek different opportunities around home as well.

Boot Camp Program Designed by WIU Alum Recognized One of 10 Most Creative

JoeDeckerWhen Western Illinois University alumnus Joe Decker (’98, B.S.) designed his Gut Check Boot Camp in San Diego, CA, he wanted people to learn how to enjoy working out.

Recently Decker’s company made the top 10 list of “most creative” workout camps in the United States, as released by the Coca-Cola Journey website. The website bills the camps as being taught by “instructors who focus on motivation and muscle-building, not humiliation.”

“I feel extremely honored to be a part of the list of the ‘most creative boot camps’ in the world,” Decker said. “There are a handful of things that have helped to climb to the top of my industry: growing up on a farm in the Midwest, serving in the military and graduating from WIU.”

Decker was named the Guinness Book of World Records’ “World’s Fittest Man” in 2000 after a 24-hour physical fitness challenge.

His 60-minute hardcore fitness program features high intensity exercises, which sometimes use nature’s bounty, such as rocks, as tools.

Decker has made his mark on the fitness world by being the first two-time winner of the Spartan Death Race, a 48-hour fitness challenge in Vermont, billed as “totally unexpected and totally insane.”

He has also designed his own fall challenge on a Fulton County farm, called “The Suck.” The 36-hour fitness challenge is held in Decker’s hometown of Cuba and includes a variety of outdoor physical and mental challenges.

The Coca-Cola Journey website says the trainers at the Gut Check Boot Camp get high marks for encouraging students and “emphasizing a team-based atmosphere where no one is left behind.”

“If you decide to try it, you’ll sweat buckets and burn hundreds of calories, but Decker designed the program so it’s more about getting healthy and learning to love being active than spot-reducing or reaching a goal weight,” the website says. “Voted ‘Best Boot Camp of San Diego,” by a local magazine, this tough routine is not for the faint of heart.”

To see the list of all 10 boot camps, visit coca-colacompany.com/stories/boot-camp-workouts-for-everyone. To learn more about Decker’s program, visit gutcheckfitness.com.

eXtreme Social Responsibility

Social responsibility is taken eXtremely seriously at WIU. It’s one of the University’s four core values (academic excellence, educational opportunity, personal growth, and social responsibility), and throughout each academic year, many students and student organizations put innumerable hours into planning, publicizing, and implementing an array of events that raise funds for good causes.

From Big Pink Volleyball (also known at BPV, a breast cancer fundraiser held every fall semester at Western) and eXtreme Dodgeball for Diabetes held in the spring (both held at the WIU Campus Recreation Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center) to such fundraisers as St. Baldrick’s and Haunted Higgins 19 (planned through students and staff working in University Housing and Dining Services) and community service and philanthropy via the University’s Greek organizations (in Fall 2011, 28 Greek organizations performed 3,530 hours of community service and contributed nearly $18,875 in chapter philanthropy), the events generate thousands of dollars and provide students with fun ways to contribute to many causes that go way “beyond the bell tower.”

9th Annual eXtreme Dodgeball for Diabetes

See more photos from WIU’s 9th Annual eXtreme Dodgeball for Diabetes at on.fb.me/13bzY0O.

At last month’s 9th annual Dodgeball for Diabetes, 45 students participated, resulting in some awesome photos on the Western Illinois University Rec Events Facebook page.

According to Amber Bedee, who is studying in Western’s College Student Personnel program and serves as a graduate assistant at Campus Recreation, this year’s event raised $295 for the Illinois Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

“This foundation conducts research surrounding three facets of diabetes, including a cure, treatment, and prevention. Finding a cure for type 1 diabetes is the highest priority. In addition to funding research, the funds donated will also go toward education,” Bedee noted. “For this year’s event, Campus Recreation collaborated with the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH). Campus Recreation coordinated the marketing and t-shirt design, as well as sign-up and logistics of the event. NRHH was key to promoting the event in the residence halls and coordinated prizes for the top two teams. This year they sponsored purchasing t-shirts for the winning team.”

The events also enable students to hone their professional skills.

“Helping to organize this year’s Dodgeball for Diabetes enabled me to work on my skills in regard to planning and implementing a program of this size,” Bedee said.

WIU Alum Displays Pride in University

NardelliProud Western Illinois University alumnus U.S. Army Capt. James Nardelli characterizes himself as proud former student who displays his University pride through carrying a Western banner with him through a variety of military deployments.

Besides spending two tours in Afghanistan, he has been stationed in Fort Benning, GA, Fort Campbell, KY and Fort Huachucah, AZ.

“I have brought this banner to both of my deployments; the first in Kahdahar Province, Afghanistan, and the second in Nangarhar Province,” he said.

Before his initial deployment, Nardelli was commissioned into the U.S. Army through the WIU ROTC program. He said he continues contact with fellow classmates and with his fraternity brothers from Sigma Pi.

“WIU taught me some invaluable skills that have been tremendously helpful throughout my career thus far. In addition, the leadership skills I honed while attending WIU made me who I am today,” Nardelli said. “WIU has some of the best leaders from which to learn and mirror. From ROTC, to my fraternity and the professors, it was an experience that I believe has made me so successful.”

Nardelli, a 2008 Western graduate with a management degree, came to WIU from Libertyville High School in 2004. After graduation, he was commissioned in the U.S. Army Infantry Corps as a second lieutenant and stayed on at WIU as a Gold Bar Recruiter until December 2008, to work with prospective ROTC candidates.

Between his deployments and serving at various U.S. locations, Nardelli was promoted to captain in 2011.

During his last deployment to Afghanistan, Nardelli said he served as Company Executive Officer. He was part of a Security Force Advise and Assist Team for an Afghan National Army Light Infantry Kandak (Battalion).

“I was in charge of running our own Coalition Force Team and advising four Afghan National Army Majors,” he said. “Our goal was to teach, coach and mentor the kandak (battalion) to be able to conduct independent combat operations without CF support, which is part of the overall drawdown plan of Afghanistan.”

Nardelli is now assigned to Fort Huachucah, AZ, where he is becoming a military intelligence officer and will attend the Military Intelligence Captains Career Course. His military awards include the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Medal, NATO ISAF Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Air Assault Badge and the Parachutist Badge.