Q&A: ‘An Impact On Every Facet Of Our Industry’; New Race Track Industry Program Chair Previews Global Symposium On Racing

Robert Hartman has gone full circle, from a student in the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program to chairing a nearly 50-year-old program that has helped place graduates into a wide variety of vocations and executive positions within racing. In between, Hartman held marketing and management positions at the New York Racing Association, Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields. He also served as associate athletic director at the University of California-Berkeley and as CEO of the American Contract Bridge League.

Since accepting the University of Arizona position in June, Hartman is responsible for putting together a strong agenda for the annual Global Symposium on Racing, to be held at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson Dec. 6-8. For more information and to take advantage of the early registration discount (through Nov. 19), click here.

Hartman discussed the Race Track Industry Program and this year’s Symposium in a Q&A with publisher Ray Paulick.

The RTIP and Symposium on Racing are separate but obviously intertwined. What were your short- and long-term goals for each when you became chair of the RTIP?

I see this as a rebuilding year for both the RTIP and the Global Symposium on Racing. The short-term goal for the RTIP is to increase student enrollment. The pandemic has a negative effect on college enrollment. Growing student enrollment begins with getting our message out to those who want an equine-related career.

If you were to look at the RTIP’s past performances, the students who have come through the Program have made an impact in every facet of our industry.  We offer generous scholarship programs, summer internships, and the hands-on learning experience that prepare students to contribute to racing organizations on Day 1. Longer-term, we are looking to expand our curriculum to reflect changes in the industry. Students will need to understand gaming, sports wagering, and new technologies.

The Symposium lost a bit of its luster from its heyday when most industry organizations held meetings in conjunction with our event. When I was a student, all key industry stakeholders attended the conference, and the agenda focused on the key issues facing the industry. We provided a forum for meaningful debate and the students benefitted from listening to this exchange of ideas. Students and racing industry leaders also had the chance to interact, which benefited both groups. Our goal for this year’s Symposium was to put together a powerful agenda with a strong lineup of speakers with the intent of reigniting that sense of debate and engagement and building anticipation for next year’s Symposium. We also reached out to racing industry media to come back to cover the event. Our longer-term goal is to get the Symposium back on the map as the one key conference that industry stakeholders want to attend every year.

The agenda and speaker lineup for the Symposium is very impressive, with top executives of some of the biggest tracks participating. How did that come together and what do you see as the highlights?

I spent most of June and July reaching out to the industry. These listening sessions with stakeholders across different breeds and across different geographies served to inform me of the key issues that needed to be tackled at the Symposium. Everyone was very generous with their time, and they understand the positive impact the RTIP, and the Symposium can have on the future of the industry.

Once the topics were finalized, I went back to many of those same folks that I engaged in the listening sessions. Given their original input helped to shape the agenda, most agreed to speak without hesitation. Those who couldn’t make it to Tucson used their network and found strong speakers to come aboard. Our industry has two or three “degrees of separation,” not the proverbial six degrees. So, if you use your network and the network of others, you can make a connection with anyone.

As far as highlights, I’m proud to say it’s a strong program from top to bottom. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s panels will have the most important messaging for the industry given the impact their work will have on every aspect of racing. Having Shannon Arvin, Aidan Butler, David O’Rourke, and Josh Rubinstein on a panel together to talk about their vision for the industry is another panel that I’m excited about. This panel idea came directly from one of the listening sessions I had with Aidan at Gulfstream Park.

The first Symposium was in 1974. As you look back, as a former student, racing executive, and now the head of the program, how have the RTIP and symposium evolved over the nearly 50 years it’s been around?

Industry consolidation has impacted the RTIP and Symposium more than anything else. There are simply fewer people working in the industry which can translate into fewer job opportunities and fewer Symposium attendees. Interestingly, the RTIP student enrollment has consolidated as well, so there are fewer students competing for jobs. There is no question that it is easier for an RTIP graduate to get a job in the industry today than when I attended the University of Arizona. One of our students who will be graduating this year already has five job offers to choose from. I was lucky to have one job offer upon graduation. The expansion of various forms of legalized wagering has also impacted us. While we are a racing program as our core, we need to be sure to stay relevant and provide students a basic understanding of gaming, including fixed odds and sports wagering. It’s not an accident that we have panel sessions on these topics. In addition to our industry stakeholders learning more about these topics, these discussions will benefit our students as well.

What are some of the key things the RTIP offers to students? Why should someone consider enrolling?

The curriculum is designed to be hands-on. We hit on every aspect of the racing industry to help prepare students to be ready to contribute to an organization upon being hired. For example, each student in our racing department class is currently working on writing a condition book. We also have a thoroughbred herd at an 80-acre farm with weanlings, yearlings and broodmares. Students interested in bloodstock will help determine the matings for these mares. They will also follow the foals from birth to being raised and being prepared for auction. The hands-on learning was evident at the Breeders’ Cup when a group of our students went to Del Mar to work with the Contender Cam project. Summer internships are yet another way to gain hands-on knowledge. Internships can be diverse — we had one student intern at Lane’s End this past summer while another student interned at the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau (TRPB).  The Symposium also provides a one-of-a-kind experience for our students. In addition to interacting with industry leaders and listening to the panel sessions, we have a “Meet Your Mentor” lunch when students have one-on-one time with a member of the industry of their choosing. I’ve spoken with some of the mentors, and they truly enjoy the interaction with the student. Of course, making such a connection is invaluable to the student. Finally, thanks to generous donors, we offer a wide array of scholarships for RTIP students. Any prospective student can reach out to me directly for more information about applying – hartmanr@arizona.edu

How does the racing industry benefit from the program and what can tracks and other organizations do to support it?

Our industry is going to need the next generation of leaders and I believe our Program prepares students for that challenge. It would be hard to find any organization in racing that hasn’t been impacted by an RTIP alum. Over the past five decades, the industry has been very generous with providing internships, sponsorships, and guests lecturers to speak to our students.

The post Q&A: ‘An Impact On Every Facet Of Our Industry’; New Race Track Industry Program Chair Previews Global Symposium On Racing appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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