Throughout the semester, approximately 20 students in a field experience course taught by Dr. Mary Olle, assistant professor, learned the ins and outs of planning city events and festivals and worked closely with Amy Mehaffey and Carlie Allen of the City of Nacogdoches’ Main Street program. Students helped with several events, including the Second Story Tours, Wassail Festival, Jingle Bell Run, Nine Flags Festival, Jingle and Mingle, and the Wine Swirl.
“There is no substitution for providing students with real-world, hands-on experience. This course introduced students to the many challenges and situations they will face in a hospitality career,” Olle said. “For example, students learned the importance of communication, how to deal with different personalities, how to manage people and more.”
Students worked in teams and attended committee meetings for each event, developed social media campaigns, created graphics and flyers, and developed meeting agendas. Students also were tasked with helping organize volunteers, promote events, contact vendors and secure entertainment.
During a class presentation, Samantha Lindsey, hospitality student from Mesquite, said, “I learned that sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, and you have to be extremely flexible when planning events.” She added she enjoyed seeing how much work goes into planning events.
While sharpening their event-planning skills, students also gained design experience by working with Canva, a graphic design software.
During events, students assisted with set up and take down, and vendor check in and placement.
A group worked on the Wine Swirl, which is scheduled to take place in February, and attended committee meetings with an already-established committee downtown. Students said this helped them see another side of event planning and explained it was beneficial to participate in the off-campus meetings and listen to how everyone communicated.
By Kasi Dickerson, senior marketing communications specialist at Stephen F. Austin State University.