KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Students from the event management program at Western Michigan University played a vital role in the success of The Kalamazoo Promise's Post Secondary Signing Day event on May 12. All graduating seniors from Kalamazoo Public Schools were invited to celebrate the continuation of their educational careers. This included students planning to attend a 2 or 4 year college, join the military, attend trade school, become an apprentice or participate in a vocational training program.
"Students are here to pick a college or pick a career path for after they graduate," says Marissa Munson, who is pursuing a minor in event management. "So we have all these different booths and tables to just let them experience and see where they want to go. At the end they're all going to go up on stage and announce where they chose to go to college or what career path they chose to go into."
Kalamazoo Promise scholars who attended the event enjoyed activities facilitated by Western's event management student interns such as local food trucks, a dunk tank and live music. All Kalamazoo Promise students also received commemorative T-shirts with their class year on the back and drawstring bags.
"We have a tattoo station. There's a photo booth. We have snacks. We have M.C. and music going on. It's a great event filled with a lot of fun things for the kids to do," says Claire Burton, program director at the Kalamazoo Experiential Learning Center (KELC) and Western alumna.
The event was organized by the KELC, which is owned by Deb Droppers, event management program coordinator in the College of Education and Human Development at WMU. Droppers has made it a point to use her business to give back to the WMU community and her Western students. KELC prides themselves on being a nonprofit organization that hires and pays college interns and strategically places them in event management initiatives that foster best practices and create educational opportunities for practical experience.
"These students run nearly 60 events a year. Last year our team ran 90 events. These students ideate, plan, structure and manage events. Right now we are managing an event called Roof Sit and we are raising $100,000 for programs that treat and prevent child abuse and neglect," says Droppers.
For the Post Secondary Signing Day event, KLEC relied on two of their WMU event management interns, Mallory Smith and Munson, to help with the planning.The KLEC first became involved with the Kalamazoo Promise after they helped plan their 10th anniversary celebration in 2015. For the Post Secondary Signing Day event, KLEC was hired to help plan the logistics and coordination.
Beyond internships, the KLEC provides opportunities for former WMU students to join the organization. Most recently, they hired Burton as program director.
"When we needed to fill the program director position, she was in community relations with the Chicago Bears and she was a former student," says Droppers. "I asked her to apply for the job. She did and she was hired. I knew her as a student and as a matter of fact, we actively recruit former students for community jobs. Our intention is to try and keep WMU students working here in Kalamazoo."
The KLEC plans to continue their partnership with the Kalamazoo Promise and manage more events. And according Droppers, conversations have already started about the planning of the 20th anniversary in 2025.
About the event management program
This interdisciplinary program empowers students to create their own event management pathway. The core program focuses on event ideation, program design, technology, execution management, budgeting, and community engagement and is experientially based with both in-class and off-campus learning. Students are provided with opportunities to work with community businesses to experience the challenges of event implementation. Curriculum is designed to support the Meeting Planner International (MPI) Standards with courses that focus on the meeting and business event competency standards industry subsets. A major and minor are offered.
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