Plan on service-learning in Meeting and Event Management program
Students in the Meeting and Event Management program at Dakota County Technical College get firsthand service-learning experience working at major events in the Twin Cities metro area. Some highlight events include a Mississippi paddle wheeler boat trip at the Republican National Convention, the Ronald McDonald Fam Glam Gala and the Great River Gathering. The 17th Annual presentation of the latter event was held Thursday evening, May 12, 2011, in the Grand Ballroom at the Saint Paul RiverCentre. Hosted and produced by the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, the event showcases the city of St. Paul and its location on the Mississippi River.
Through collaborations with GRG event managers, Meeting and Event Management Instructor Rosealee Lee, the 2008 DCTC Outstanding Instructor of the Year and a member of the Minnesota Meetings + Events Hall of Fame, gives her students the chance to gain professional experience working at one of Minnesota’s premier social gatherings of the year. Eight students participated, volunteering their expertise onsite, performing event staff functions throughout the evening.
“This was a wonderful service-learning experience for our students,” said Lee, whose program sponsored the event. “The Great River Gathering attracts roughly 1,200 movers and shakers from business, industry, politics and education, including St. Paul Mayor Christopher Coleman and Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke. Our students greeted the rush of guests at several check-in tables during the reception. They handled other critical guest-service duties as the event unfolded. We all got the chance to have dinner and enjoy the program as well.”
Rosealee and her students worked directly with Sarah Weimar, president of W Marketing, the company that managed the event, and W Marketing’s marketing and social media manager, Stacy DeYoung. Weimar and DeYoung, both seasoned event planners, visited the college’s Apple Valley site for a pre-event meeting to go over assignments for the evening. No detail was left to chance and the meeting lasted nearly two hours.
Weimar amused Lee’s students by relating humorous anecdotes from her previous big-event experiences. One story involved trying to figure out if Bill Murray, a guest at an event Weimar managed, should be offered a name tag or not. Murray solved the problem by taking someone else’s name tag, in this case Ecolab CEO Doug Baker‘s, which he wore during the entire event.
“The students have a very important job at the Great River Gathering,” Weimar said. “They have to be at their best because their faces will be the first and last faces people see at the event. This is an ideal opportunity for Rosealee’s students. They will interact with community leaders and help manage an event with more than 1,000 tables.”
Student volunteers at the 17th Annual Great River Gathering
Lucie Mikolaskova, who will graduate with an A.A.S. degree from the Meeting and Event Management program in fall 2011, attended the meeting as part of her volunteer service. Now a resident of Lakeville, Minn., Mikolaskova, 24, is from Blatná, a small town in the Czech Republic. She left Blatná, which is famous for its water castle, in 2006 after earning a business degree and traveled to the U.S. to work as an au pair. Looking to add a management degree to her résumé, she visited DCTC and met Meeting and Event Management alumna, Annette Marquez, who helped her master English in a business environment and adjust to college in America.
The owner and president of The Perfect Occasion, an event planning company in Eagan, Minn., Marquez serves on the DCTC Hospitality Advisory Committee and was a Dakota County Tribune Business Weekly 2010 Exceptional Businesswomen. She soon became Mikolaskova’s friend and mentor. (Learn more about Marquez, Mikolaskova and the mentorship process by reading “Paying It Forward” in Meetings: Minnesota’s Hospitality Journal). Mikolaskova currently works part-time at a pediatrics dentistry office while taking classes at DCTC.
“I like working at big events because it gives me the experience I need to understand how our industry works,” Mikolaskova said. “I’m entering my hospitality career with my eyes open. I want to learn everything I can and start building a strong career while I’m still in school.”
A 2003 graduate of Farmington High School in Farmington, Minn., Megan Thompson, 25, earned her Meeting and Event Management certificate in 2009. Now residing in Eagan, Minn., Thompson took general education classes at an area community college, but didn’t find her home in higher education until she came to Dakota County Technical College. “I love DCTC,” she said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
As a Meeting and Event Management student, Thompson took part in a full range of service-learning projects. “I worked the RNC riverboat trip,” she said. “That was a fantastic trip and I had a blast. I worked the Upper Midwest Emmy Awards and met a lot of great people.”
Thompson is planning to continue her studies at DCTC and earn an A.S. degree in Individualized Studies with a business emphasis. Her long-term goal is to own and manage her own wedding planner business. “Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a wedding planner,” said Thompson, who ranks the annual Wedding Fair at the Minneapolis Convention Center as one of her favorite events. “I’m currently planning my best friend’s wedding. DCTC has given me the chance to follow my dream.”
Born in Austin, Minn., Dawn Nelson, 48, is used to high-pressure situations. She worked a dozen years at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., as an emergency medical dispatcher. From there, she served as a supervisor in charge of all 911 communications for the city of Superior, Wis., handling that job from 1999–2003. It wasn’t until Nelson was in her job in the Transportation department for Minneapolis Public Schools that she discovered she had a talent for event planning.
“I planned the retirement party for my boss and I found I really enjoyed that type of work,” Nelson said. “Afterward, my boss told me I was in the wrong field and that got me to thinking.”
That same boss steered Nelson to the Meeting and Event Management program at DCTC. As she studies to earns her A.A.S. degree, she works at CRAVE, a top-end restaurant in downtown Minneapolis that held its grand opening May 19, 2011. Along with her volunteer her duties at the Great River Gathering, she worked as a student event director for the 2011 Commencement Ceremony at the Treasure Island Event Center in Red Wing, Minn. All told, 330 DCTC graduates attended, bringing enough family and friends to nearly fill the 30,000-square-foot, 3,000-seat facility.
“We were part of a team brought together by Rosealee Lee that helped DCTC Student Life Director Nicole Meulemans plan the event,” said Nelson, who made a site visit to Treasure Island on her own early in the process. She worked alongside Cara Tuenge, who also served as a student event director, and put in months of hard planning to achieve a solid final product. “Cara has some event planning in her background and was a good mentor. I learned a lot about myself and how to work with many different people.”
Cara Tuenge, 28, works in the event planning area at Care Providers of Minnesota, a statewide, nonprofit trade association based in Bloomington, Minn., that represents more than 500 providers of long-term care services. A 2001 graduate of Denfeld High School in Duluth, Minn., Tuenge has an A.A.S. degree in office administration from Minneapolis Business College. Her first job at Care Providers was as the executive assistant to the company’s chief executive officer. After she switched to event planning, she found she missed her role as the CEO’s gatekeeper, but also found she liked her new job a lot.
She came to the DCTC Meeting and Event Management program to expand her professional knowledge and master the tools she needs to plan events such as Care Providers’ annual convention expo, which draws more than 3,000 people.
“Working on real-world events is the best way to learn,” Tuenge said. “Not only do we get to help plan the event, we also get to work the day of the event, which gives us a chance to handle problems in real time. Rosealee’s program is great because we get to take the skills we learn in her class and put them to use at actual functions.”
Tuenge reported that she has already been able to apply her newfound knowledge at work. “My boss is great,” she said. “She likes what I’m learning so much that she’s going to take some Meeting and Event classes at DCTC, too.”
Both Cara Tuenge and Dawn Nelson are new board members of the Meeting Professionals International Student Club at DCTC with Nelson serving as vice president. Visit MPI Student Club for more information about the club’s mission and purpose as well as about MPI, the world’s largest trade association for the $122.3 billion meeting and event industry.
Meeting and Event Management Service-Learning | 17th Annual Great River Gathering gallery
Blogging and Networking
You can also learn more about the DCTC Meeting and Event Management program by reading Rosealee Lee’s blog, Hospitality Rants, Raves and Reviews, and by checking out the DCTC Hospitality Network on Ning.