Hospitality Students Roll Out Blue Carpet for RNC Delegates

Hosted by the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, a paddlewheeler cruise gives politicians from 10 states a nonpartisan view of the Mighty Mississippi.

More than a dozen students and alumni from Dakota County Technical College’sHospitality Careers programs served as volunteer Delegate Hospitality Ambassadors aboard the Betsey Northrup on Sept. 4 during a cruise on the Mississippi Riverhosted by the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation and sponsored by the McKnight Foundation.

Nearly 300 Republican National Convention delegates from 10 states bordering the Mississippi took part in the “Headwaters to Gulf Mixer on the Mississippi,” which showcased riverfront development and natural areas between Harriet Island and the Big Muddy’s confluence with the Minnesota River.

Caroline Mehlhop, associate director of development for the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, reported that representatives from the National Park ServiceSt. Paul Parks and Recreation, and a number of elected officials from Minnesota joined the delegates on the paddlewheeler, which is owned and operated by Padelford Riverboats.

Mehlhop also praised the DCTC volunteers, noting that they take their work very seriously. “The students from Dakota County Technical College are high-caliber,” she said. “They are professional and have the ability to troubleshoot on the job.”

One volunteer, Marisa Dille, a student in the Real Estate/Property Managementprogram, met the Arkansas delegation at their hotel. She and a fellow ambassador welcomed the delegates and made sure everyone boarded the Betsey Northrup on schedule.

“We had a wonderful time,” said Dille, who has a bachelor’s degree in business management from St. Mary’s University. “Watching the delegates network and interact was very rewarding. They displayed lots of camaraderie.”

Dille mentioned that security was tight on the two-hour cruise. Two U.S. Coast Guardvessels escorted the two-deck paddlewheeler on its circuit upriver and down with six armed Coast Guard security personnel actually on board.

Another volunteer, Amy Jones, a student in the Meeting and Event Managementprogram, worked with the Tennessee delegation. She considered the cruise a tremendous learning experience and was honored to be part of a nonpartisan event that championed the conservation of the Mississippi River and its waterfront.

“We had a great time assisting the delegates,” Jones said. “We would never have received this opportunity without the guidance and connections of Rosealee Lee, our instructor at DCTC.”

For her part, Rosealee Lee, who also teaches in the Supervisory Managementprogram, was proud of her students, stating that they handled their duties superbly, exemplifying what it means to be an ambassador.

“I believe in personalizing education in real ways my students can take home and put to use immediately,” Lee said. “The Headwaters to Gulf Mixer on the Mississippi was an ideal way to put our classroom learning to work. The cruise was also featured”

Patrick Seeb, executive director of the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, a private nonprofit organization based in downtown St. Paul, was pleased with the success of the riverboat outing. He noted that Mayor Chris Coleman greeted the delegates following the cruise, and along with other area civic leaders, made the delegates feel exceptionally welcome.

“It was a delightful afternoon as we boated from the urban center of the city to one of the great natural places in Minnesota,” Seeb said. “The short excursion provided a perfect venue for participants to discuss how decisions on one part of the river affect others.”

Meeting and Event Management Program

The Meeting and Event Management program prepares students to enter a truly exciting industry. Individuals already employed as meeting planners or in tourism, hotel, and convention service positions will expand their career opportunities with the program’s comprehensive curriculum.

The program serves as the missing ingredient for individuals who want to offer premier services and guest satisfaction to many different types of customers in a variety of industry businesses:

  • Convention and visitor bureaus
  • Travel agencies
  • Meeting, conference and event management businesses
  • Marketing and public relations firms
  • For-profit and nonprofit corporations
  • Golf and country clubs
  • Zoos
  • Resorts
  • Guest-centered attractions offering food, lodging or meeting spaces
Occupational Data
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for meeting and convention planners is expected to grow 20 percent through 2016, which is faster than the national average. Job openings will result from employment growth and the need to replace workers who leave the workforce or transfer to other occupations.
  • reports that a typical meeting/event planner working in the U.S. earns a median base salary of $51,205 a year.
  • In 2007, CNN/ ranked event planner eighth on the Web site’s list of “Top 20 Jobs” for “people who want more money, more upside and more control over where they’re going.”
  • ISEEK reports the median hourly wage at $22.52 for meeting and convention planners in the seven-county metro area. Top earners bring down $33.42 per hour.