The University of Louisville Equine Industry Program (EIP) is a component of the College of Business. Its director, Richard Wilcke, provided answers to a number of questions about the EIP.
Rich Wilcke came to the EIP in 1995 with a strong background in business. His career has encompassed such positions as president and chief executive officer of the former Council for a Competitive Economy in Washington, DC. He is a longtime horse owner and, among his many achievements, he is the founding executive director of the Maryland Million Ltd., as well as the magazine Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred. EIP Director Wilcke has given speeches on free enterprise and equine topics to a wide array of far-flung organizations and groups and his articles have appeared in prestigious business publications.
HRB: In what year was the EIP at the University of Louisville started?
RW: The EIP was established by the Kentucky Legislature in 1986. The first students entered as equine-business majors in the 1987 fall semester. The oldest of our graduates, as a consequence, are only about 40 years old.
HRB: What is its mission?
RW: The EIP is charged with educating individuals to manage enterprises in the horse industry by providing them a sound understanding of business disciplines as well as a fundamental and broad understanding of the industry itself. The EIP is expected to serve this industry with a variety of events, analyses, and research in applied management.
HRB: Is equine business considered from the perspective of all breeds of horses or is the focus primarily on horse racing?
RW: While racing and breeding-to-race are economically important segments of this industry, especially in Kentucky, the EIP strives to prepare its students to be productively involved in all types of equine enterprises and with all breeds and sport uses.
HRB: How is the University of Louisville program different than the Equine Initiative offered by the University of Kentucky?
RW: The EIP is a part of the Uof L College Of Business. Our students are all enrolled in the College of Business and all are required to take the full core of the business curriculum, which includes courses in accounting, computer systems, economics, entrepreneurship, finance, and marketing. The University of Kentucky’s Equine Initiative is a part of the College of Agriculture and, as such, puts more focus on animal science and production.
HRB: To what extent do faculty members in equine business have hands-on experience in what they are teaching?
RW: Each of the faculty members of the EIP has had significant long-term experience within the equine industry. Tim Capps and Tom Aronson have been corporate executives for a variety of firms, including top racetracks, while Dr. Bob Losey and myself have long been breeders of either Thoroughbreds or Quarter Horses.
HRB: Do you regularly bring in speakers for your students to learn from and interact with?
RW: Our location in Louisville allows us the opportunity to bring in experts within the equine industry by the score. Within a 90-minute drive of our campus are literally hundreds of prominent horsemen and industry spokesmen. We have courses that take full advantage of our location and over the past decade we have had well over a hundred different speakers from the industry come to campus to speak and interact with students.
HRB: Is the average age of your students about the same as for typical college and university undergraduates?
RW: Unquestionably, our undergraduates are typical of all college and university students in terms of their age. However, we offer a post-baccalaureate equine-business certificate to individuals who already have a degree, and since many of these students are aiming for a career change, these certificate students tend to be older.
HRB: Your equine program is the only one housed in an AACSB-accredited business school. What advantages does that provide to your students and graduates? (Note to readers: The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or AACSB is the recognized worldwide authority in accrediting business schools. Only a minority of business schools have earned its accreditation.)
RW: We believe that AACSB accreditation in business and accounting gives our students the assurance of a high-quality degree in business. If they work in the equine industry, their business skills and education will allow them to be very competitive. If they choose not to work in the equine industry, they still have a very valuable degree.
HRB: How many courses and course hours do students take that are customized for equine business? Are these courses open to non-equine majors?
RW: There are roughly twelve different courses offered by the EIP. Our students must take 30 hours of applied equine courses to graduate as an equine major. Our courses are open to other students. Non-business majors often take the introductory courses, while business students often take our upper-level courses as College of Business electives.
HRB: With so many racinos in business now, have you expanded the scope of your instruction to include operating a gaming facility in conjunction with a racetrack?
RW: In the past, we offered entire courses in alternative gaming. However, we believe that it’s enough for students to understand the structure and mechanics of the gaming industry as long as they are well trained in the management of all types of businesses. These subjects are fully covered in existing courses within the equine curriculum.
HRB: What are some examples of the internships or co-op experiences your students have engaged in during their time at the University of Louisville?
RW: As you would guess, we have had many students over the years do internships or co-ops at Churchill Downs since it is located within a few blocks of our campus. There have also been many who interned at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center (located in Louisville), as well as farms, stables, publications and bloodstock agents in the region.
HRB: What kinds of jobs have your students obtained upon graduation?
RW: Many of our graduates are in positions of responsibility, in part as a result of their sound business training. We feel that the combination of business skills and a broad familiarity with the equine industry enables them to add value to their employers sooner than those who lack one or the other. Most end up in management as a result.
HRB: What kinds of graduate programs have some of your former students pursued?
RW: We have had students who have gone to law school, some who have opted for an MBA, and others who have become veterinarians or gotten advanced degrees in animal science. But for the most part, our students go directly into the industry.
HRB: Are there scholarships or in-state tuition opportunities for students who are not residents of the Commonwealth of Kentucky?
RW: While we have some scholarships for equine majors, the University always has options for exceptional students. In addition, there are about eight southeastern states that are in the Academic Common Market. Since these states do not have a comparable program, their residents can qualify to pay in-state Kentucky tuition rates.
HRB: Describe the international tour that the EIP sponsored in the summer of 2009.
RW: We took about 20 junior and senior students to England for a ten-day study tour in June. We visited New Market, Royal Ascot, Cheltenham, Stratford-on-the-Avon, London, and Badminton House…mostly equine-oriented stops.
HRB: Any information about the EIP that you want to add?
RW: We are in the process of planning our 2010 Kentucky Equine International Summit to be held in Lexington on April 26 and 27. And we are soon to announce the establishment of a new institute for research and analyses of horse sports.
We are optimistic about the future of our industry and our program.
HRB: Thank you.
University of Louisville
College of Business
Louisville, KY 40292
Postscript by Bill Shanklin: I have known three of the University of Louisville EIP faculty members–Tom Aronson, Tim Capps, and Rich Wilcke–for many years. All of them have an in-depth knowledge and acute understanding of the racing enterprise. They are articulate and dedicated to a meaningful, first-rate learning experience for their students. The EIP curriculum is well integrated into the business school and university academic programs so that a student receives a well-rounded education. The EIP has a truly unique geographical advantage in that one can literally see part of the University of Louisville campus from Churchill Downs racetrack. The world-renowned Thoroughbred bloodstock hub in Central Kentucky is about 80 miles away and Shelby County, the capital of the American Saddlebred breed, is approximately 30 miles distant. (EIP students will have easy access to the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington during late September and early October.) Louisville and Jefferson County offer many attractive cultural and social opportunites, from sports to the arts.
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