It's amazing how the proper introduction to horse racing can set a person on a journey they never expected. Add Nina Nez to that list of people.
While pursuing a degree in equine science at the University of Arizona, Nez took a class called Introduction to the Animal Racing Industry. She was quickly intrigued by the sport and the endless avenues it could lead her. Although she's still graduating with the equine science degree, her career goals have shifted from her original plans.
“Even though I wasn't in the Race Track Industry Program (RTIP), the instructors and my advisor were very encouraging in my taking the RTIP courses while still pursuing my original major.”
Knowing the outstanding RTIP teaching staff, Nez certainly had the proper introduction.
Nez grew up in a tiny town on the Navajo reservation in Northern Arizona called Many Farms. Her original experience in the equine world came from her family who participated in rodeo. Her time in college has been filled with an array of unique learning experiences that certainly expanded her horizons beyond the equine industry.
She spent two summers in the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) Internship program at the University of Washington. There, she researched biofuel, forestry and tribal relations. She also spent one summer participating in the George W. Carver Internship program at Iowa State University. Her research topics included corn (maize) and corn genetics. Racing can always use sharp new talent and it's found just that in Nina Nez.
To enhance her newfound interest in horseracing, Nez took the opportunity to be a part of Rillito Park's PariBet Racetrack Industry Student Experience (PRISE). Nez worked two seasons in Clubhouse admissions before looking for new opportunities at the track. This year, Nez worked in the racing office during the week – taking entries, assisting with draws, and helping Director of Racing Debi Ferguson with various other duties. On race days, she worked as a mutual teller. Both new positions helped grow her knowledge of the sport.
“I especially enjoyed this year because I was able to connect and apply what I learned in my race track courses to my work at Rillito,” said Nez. “My time at Rillito Park has definitely been a highlight experience during my college career. I've made great connections with a lot of people at the track, from operations to horsemen, and even spectators attending the races. Mike Weiss [General Manager] is one of those connections. He's always been the go-to person for us students because of his advice and willingness to help us with anything we needed.”
Upon graduation, Nez wants to continue her path into the racing industry.
“I'm not sure where in the industry I'll end up because it is so complex and there is still so much for me to learn. The opportunities are endless,” said Nez.
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