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ASU students produce APS Electric Light Parade preview event for capstone project

student helps children at event
December 09, 2019

As thousands of community members packed the parking lot of the North Phoenix Baptist Church to check out the float entries for the APS Electric Light Parade, Special Event Management students entertained children of all ages with an event of their own.

Arizona State University students enrolled in PRM 486 — Introduction to Special Event Management worked hard all semester to develop the concept for their interactive station: They created the vision, maintained a budget, organized a site plan, developed the marketing strategy, drafted an emergency plan and built props, games and crafts in anticipation for the event.

“The city of Phoenix is celebrating the 33rd annual Electric Light Parade, and it is an honor to partner with them to support our community through an auxiliary event,” Clinical Assistant Professor Erin Schneiderman said. “This is a perfect platform for our students to learn the fundamentals of event planning in the classroom and then see it all come to life as they execute the populated event.”

Representatives from the city of Phoenix’s Parks and Recreation Department and event sponsor APS visited the class early in the semester to explain the significance, traditional components, layout and expectations for the preview event. Students spent the next several weeks working in groups to brainstorm suitable activities for a younger audience. The last few weeks of the semester saw students create their experiences, loading up supplies and creating their station at the event site.

The event featured eight interactive holiday stations from around the world all run by students. Guests learned about the significance of the pickle while playing games popular in Germany; decorated doughnuts while learning about Israel; left a wish in the Great Wall of China; enjoyed a spot of tea and hot chocolate in England; and celebrated the arts culture in France. In addition, guests learned about the unique concept of celebrating winter holidays in the summer months in Australia and played Dutch games. And no holiday festival would be complete without a visit from Santa, who accepted present requests accompanied by the event management "elves."

“It is a great partnership for both the city of Phoenix and ASU to come together and host a community event,” said Bob Berlin, recreation coordinator and parade lead. “There is a chance for students to learn public service firsthand, and we appreciate all of their hard work. But the real beneficiaries are the kids and families who attend a great event where they have fun and learn about traditions from around the world!”

During the event, a few learning moments stood out, including the students having to handle an overloaded power source, a lost child being reunited with his father and an impromptu need to create a photo backdrop from the Santa station using only leftover materials that were at the event site. The students handled all challenges with composure and got a real lesson in what could actually happen during an event.

The Special Event Management program offers students with an interest in working in the special event industry an opportunity to learn fundamental principles of producing a wide range of events including concerts, festivals, weddings, conventions and sporting events. Students can pursue a minor that ties their degree into event management or a six-credit certificate to add to their degree, which puts them at a competitive advantage entering the workforce.

“Our courses are experiential — yes, we spend time discussing fundamentals inside the classroom, but we pride ourselves on the hands-on experiences our students are developing outside of the classroom,” Schneiderman said. “Students will take several visits throughout the community, hear from experts and have several opportunities to develop their own events and volunteer in areas that interest them. Our ultimate goal is to place students in the event industry who have experience and can make an immediate impact!”

Learn more about the Special Events Management program.

Top photo: Marley Fischer helps two young girls create their wish at the China station on Dec. 7. Photo by Paige Corbin