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New event planning degree sees successful first year

June 11, 2014

The first year of a new Event and Convention Management degree at Stephens proved successful, allowing young women to work alongside professional planners as they prepare for their own careers.

“We were able to get out there and work as a team, getting that good experiential education that’s so important to us,” said Assistant Professor Cindy Hazelrigg.
During the program’s first year, students were involved in the Cancer Research Center Gala, the United Way, Ronald McDonald House Red Shoe Gala, a Pot of Gold Auction at Father Tolton Catholic High School and a number of private weddings and events. Several students are also members of Meeting Professionals International.

Students are interested in a variety of careers ranging from wedding planners to sporting event planners to corporate event managers.

“There’s such a variety of interests, it’s exciting for me,” Hazelrigg said. “We can pull from that as we have classroom discussions.”

And the jobs are out there. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry is growing at a rate of 33 percent—much faster than the average for job outlooks through 2022. And the median pay for event planners in 2012 was more than $45,000 a year.

“It’s a thriving industry,” Hazelrigg said. “And having the program embedded in our School of Organizational Leadership and Strategic Communication is giving our students an edge in that market. They’re getting a broad background in business, marketing and leadership while having the ability to focus on event and convention management.”

Jenna Westra, who finished her freshman year in the program, hopes to pursue a career in the sports industry.

“People think it’s just wedding planning, but there’s so much more you can do with it,” she said.

Westra praised Hazelrigg for making the coursework relevant and for adding the off-campus experiences.

“I loved being able to tour the new Broadway hotel near campus and the Tiger Hotel,” she said. “I’m looking forward to planning more events.”

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