A sea of purple takes over U.S. Bank Stadium each Minnesota Vikings home game. But look a little closer, past the Helga helmets and countless Justin Jefferson jerseys, there’s a slightly different shade of purple: Tommie purple.
This fall, a small army of University of St. Thomas students are fanning out across the stadium, greeting fans, and ensuring the game day experience is a favorable one.
“We got the Tommie pride here with the Vikings pride,” said Jake Zimmer ’24, a finance and data analytics double major, and member of the Vikings Game Day Internship Program. “It’s great. I get to keep all my purple gear and wear it to game days as well.”
Zimmer is in his second year with the program and was promoted to lead the Vikings Ambassador team.
“A good day is seeing every fan enjoying the game and limiting incidents,” Zimmer said. “We want to make sure everyone’s having a happy game so they come back to more games in the future.”
Eight University of St. Thomas students were selected to take part this season – some work alongside Zimmer on the Ambassador team, others serve on a special Hype Team or with the Vikings Foundation. A select few are also members of the Black Jacket team, which discretely works with family members of the Vikings players and help usher in other VIP guests. Each Sunday brings endless possibilities as interns navigate new challenges across the seven levels of the stadium. But the goal is always the same.
“We want to be the number one NFL stadium and experience in all of America,” said Vikings guest experience coordinator, and recent Tommie alum, Alyssa Erdman ’20.
It was Erdman who first had the idea to create the Game Day Internship Program two years ago. As the Vikings struggled to staff the stadium in 2021 following pandemic closures, Erdman looked to source up-and-coming talent from area colleges. She, of course, couldn’t resist hiring a slew of students from her alma mater.
“What I love about being a Tommie alumna and hiring Tommies is I know the caliber of person that I am getting,” Erdman said. “I know that they are always seeking to really help elevate any experience and be the best they can be, because that’s everything that I learned when I was at St. Thomas.”
A communication studies major and former softball player at St. Thomas, Erdman spent one of her summers as an undergrad interning for the Madison Mallards, a Northwoods League Baseball team. It was an experience that Erdman wanted to help recreate for current St. Thomas students.
“I’m hoping that they really start to build a network, but then also understand if sports is right for them,” Erdman said. “The opportunity to work with a professional sports team gives them a new, unique perspective that I really hope that they can carry on in their future.”
The focus of the Game Day Internship Program is in the name, but Erdman has worked hard to develop a long list of professional development opportunities that extend past game day. Interns attend career panels throughout the fall, learning from a variety of Twin Cities sports professionals. They attend a professional development day, where they receive a headshot, undergo mock interviews, and work with mentors at the Vikings. They even journey across town to do market research at a Minnesota Twins game and write a paper analyzing the fan experience at Target Field.
Vikings fan and current St. Thomas communication studies major Morgan Ray ’24 is spending her time as a game day intern on the hype team. Some days she welcomes club members to their exclusive digs, on others she may help pass out Vikings birthday pins.
“The energy is almost indescribable,” Ray said. “I always get goosebumps every time I go in. And now I get to help create that experience and get fans excited to see the Vikings.”
With each welcome, crisis averted, and question answered, Ray knows she’ll walk away from the internship more prepared to enter the job market next spring.
“I’ve learned so much about customer service, time management and networking,” Ray said. “It’s such a great starting point to get into the field, explore this as an option, and get a step in the door.”