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ASU students step out of the classroom and into the venue for real-world lessons on event planning

PRM 487, special event management, students, SCRD, Strong Beer Fest

From left: PRM 487 students Aziah Whitfield, Taylor Clinton and Emma Montague pose for a photo during event management work at the recent Strong Beer Fest.

March 05, 2020

To help students get an authentic feel for their subject matter, some teachers will abandon the lecture hall in favor of a real-world learning environment that exists under actual game conditions.

Such is the case with PRM 487: Advanced Special Event Management. Students recently walked through gates used by football fans at Sun Devil Stadium to gather inside the newly constructed San Tan Ford Club overlooking Frank Kush Field.

There, the 12,000-square-foot club space seamlessly became a classroom, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, comfortable seating for group work and discussion, restrooms, patio space and great views of the surrounding area.

"I believe holding class in the San Tan Ford Club at the Sun Devil Stadium fit perfectly with a special event management class,” said Alaina Lass, a senior theater major. “It complemented the course really well, allowing students to view an event space and see the behind-the-scenes aspects of sporting events. It was really exciting to be up there and I hope to have more classes in that space."

Holding classes inside Sun Devil Stadium is a part of the vision for ASU 365 Community Union. ASU officials hope that the 365 Community Union will be a place where diversity and community are celebrated all year long.

“Our vision is for the 365 Community Union and Sun Devil Stadium to be a dynamic cultural hub that operates every day of the year and acts as a model for venues around the world,” said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, ASU vice president for cultural affairs and executive director of ASU Gammage. “We want to create a place where you can imagine Sun Devils of all ages starting their day with yoga on the Sun Deck or a breakfast meeting at a café and ending their day with a film festival or concert under the stars.”

By developing special event partnerships along with free public programming (like the Stadium Yoga Series and Movies on the Field) ASU hopes to welcome students, staff, faculty and community members to eat, play, learn, connect, build relationships and create and innovate inside the stadium space.

Students get experience at wide variety of events

Innovation is a concept of PRM 487 where students who have proven mastery in lower level special event classes have the opportunity to spend two six-week sessions working for an event agency or venue in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

In that short period of time, students are given an orientation with their new team and are put to work planning and executing at least one event in the equivalent number of hours they would have spent in the classroom. They come back to the San Tan Ford Club to report on their experience, share event details and lessons learned and then they repeat the criteria for a different agency for the next six weeks.

Students are working on events such as the Arizona Renaissance Festival, Banner Hospital Foundation’s Children’s Open Golf Tournament, Arizona Bike Week, Scottsdale Culinary Festival, the 20th annual Arizona Strong Beer Festival, FanShield 500 NASCAR Weekend, the Devour Culinary Classic, First Friday, and several concerts, shows and other events at Desert Ridge Marketplace and Celebrity Theater, in addition to many more.

“Our students have the opportunity to work with some of the Valley’s most talented event professionals,” said Erin Schneiderman, clinical assistant professor in the School of Community Resources and Development.

“They are learning firsthand what it takes to work as a part of a team to plan and execute some of our most popular events. We feel they are ready to enter the workforce and this class gives them the chance to build their confidence and explore different types of events and roles in hopes they will find their passion and continue to pursue their goals.”

David Widoff, events marketing manager at Arizona Boardwalk (formerly OdySea in the Desert) is an enthusiastic supporter of the advanced special event management class being offered at ASU.

“This inaugural class of students has shown just why this was a much-needed addition to the current course offerings,” he said. “The passion and excitement of students who have spent their hours assisting me here at Arizona Boardwalk have demonstrated a clear desire and aptitude to absorb all aspects of planning and executing live events.”

Bringing 'new life to our community events'

Allison Mullady, program manager at the Design Studio for Community Solutions at ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, agrees.

“The interns from PRM 487 are such an asset to our team, they are bringing new life to our community events,” she said.

Mullady helps oversee students working on the Community Conversations with residents and business owners in the west Phoenix neighborhood of Maryvale in support of the Maryvale One Square Mile Initiative.

“Our team is small, and having the support for events planning and management has allowed us to do things we were only dreaming of before,” she said. “In addition, the student interns give us a fresh perspective, particularly for our events focused on engaging youth in the community. Also, they come in with exciting new ideas and considerations we may not have thought about.”

Students are really enjoying the variety of this hybrid class, as well.

"Since my freshman year of college, all I ever wanted was experience and connections,” said senior Terraney Griffin Hightower. “This internship is giving me just that. Interning with ASU Career and Professional Development Service offices has given me an opportunity to volunteer at the ASU Film Spark LA Entertainment Career Fair and Hollywood Sun Devil Mixer. There were a variety of ASU and entertainment industry professionals that I got the chance to network with. I am honored to have gotten this opportunity.” 

The special event management program offers students with an interest in working in the special event industry an opportunity to learn fundamental principals of producing a wide range of events including concerts, festivals, weddings, conventions, sporting events and more. Students can pursue a minor that ties their degree into event management or the 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.”

Written by Erin Schneiderman

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