The partnership between the Kansas City Chiefs and Park University will be seen a lot for those watching the NFL Draft this week.
While the draft starts on Thursday, April 25, and will conclude with rounds four through seven on Saturday, Aug. 27.
The Chiefs will be hosting a draft fest at Arrowhead Stadium and Park will play a prominent role, just like it did last year at Fort Riley in Kansas.
The draft party moves back to Kansas City and Park will again be the premier partner for the event. While it won’t be on a military base like in the recent years, Park will have a bus with 50 soldiers from Fort Leavenworth come to Arrowhead for the festivities.
The Parkville school will have an even bigger platform when current Park student-athlete Nada Meawad will announce a draft pick on Saturday.
The sophomore from Cairo, Egypt was the NAIA player of the year and helped the Pirates claim a national championship.
The Chiefs, as of Tuesday, April 23, will have one fifth-round pick, two in the sixth and one in the seventh. By press time, it wasn’t known which round she will announce.
“As part of our partnership with the Chiefs, they actually had the idea,” Park vice president/chief operating officer Shane Smeed said. “The Kansas City Chiefs recommended someone from the national championship team have that honor.”
The draft pick announcement is just part of what Smeed calls a ‘transformational’ partnership between the Chiefs and the school.
He noted the connection between Park and the Chiefs isn’t simply marketing. It is a true partnership.
The official higher education partner of the Chiefs worked with the team’s educational needs. As of earlier this month, there were 22 Kansas City Chiefs employees that have taken classes at Park since the partnership — which is about 10 percent of the full-time employment base. That number includes one player and member of the coaching staff.
Smeed noted one player — which couldn’t be divulged due to privacy issues — was able to classes to finish his degree from his original school through a reverse transfer process and helped fulfill a ‘lifelong dream’ of that player.
The Chiefs increased their tuition assistance by 50 percent if the employee chose to go to Park and whatever the remaining balance of the cost to attend Park would be covered by the school.
“It’s been a multifaceted partnership that I think has brought a tremendous amount of awareness to Park University throughout this entire region,” Smeed said. “For us it was about partnering with quality and I think that they feel the same way on their side. They have two quality organizations coming together.
“So as part of that when I met with the head of human resources, when we were developing that relationship, we had said we wanted to be more than just this marketing partner. So we’ve created this experience where through this cooperative relationship with the employees themselves should have no cost.”
The school and Chiefs also work hand-in-hand in leadership discussions, with each entity sending over faculty members to each other in a collaborative leadership series. This spring, a senior executive in the Chiefs front office spoke to the student government at Park about leadership within the work place.
The partnership with the Chiefs last year came during one of the best seasons in the team’s history. During the game, a Park 101 trivia question was on the scoreboard for fans to answer with the school’s logo out there for 70,000-plus to see.
The impact can be seen in enrollment growth throughout the school’s Kansas City-area campuses, especially at Parkville. Most new students take a survey and a large majority said they heard of the college through the partnership with the Chiefs.
“It created a broader, bigger fanbase for the Kansas City Chiefs from members of Park University, from our students … our international students getting excited about American football which is cool. Staff and faculty were getting excited. Their wins were our wins; their success was our success.
“It’s safe to say that with nearly 150 years (as a college) and only 10 miles north of downtown Kansas City, surprisingly there are still some people in the region that don’t know who we are, what we’re about. So this helps show we’re about quality, we’re about winning, we’re about helping students achieve their goals.”