UIW students learn specialty and craft of event planning
By Brian Hudgins
Yvette Reyna’s ’03 BA ’12 MA experience planning events started in the same way as many professionals in the industry, planning family events. She was trying to balance her roles as both an undergraduate student and a single mom while planning family gatherings. As it turned out some of her biggest lessons came from attending the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), which led her to her career path.
“I had to figure out on a budget where I could have (family) birthday parties and it was about making things like party favors and finding ways to make decorations nicer,” Reyna said. “It was a big task. A lot of times, it was the School of Hard Knocks. There were not courses for event planning.”
So Reyna, realizing the need for specialized training in this field, set a plan in motion for putting together a course in event planning. After she earned her B.A., she had a syllabus in hand and approached the university about offering a class in the School of Media and Design. “They said, ‘we would like you to have more experience and a master’s degree,’” Reyna said. “Once I had the backing of those two things, I received a call that my syllabus had been discussed and they wanted me to teach a course.”
The course had to cover a variety of subjects that fall under the umbrella of event planning. Logistical issues include: picking a proper venue, negotiating prices of needed items, finding sponsors and figuring out how many volunteers or paid staff members will be needed. “I learned at a nonprofit how to plan events,” Reyna, now an adjunct professor, said. “A minimal budget with few resources – that’s what we walk into. I tell students to work from the inside out. Your family and friends – network that way.”
Reyna, who currently is the executive director of the Judson Education Foundation and Business Partnerships for the Judson Independent School District, formerly served as the director of sales promotions and weekend movie host for FOX 29 San Antonio and MY35TV, now CW35. She coordinated FOX 29’s signature Halloween event, Treat Street, in downtown San Antonio with approximately 20,000 attendees, the FOX 29 and MY35TV Give to Live blood drive as well as the FOX 29 and MY35TV fall premiere party. A former alumni board member, Reyna also helped to plan university events such as the annual Easter Egg Hunt and Trunk or Treat.
Reyna’s first class last fall included 15 students who experienced a combination of both lectures and an out-of-class service learning component. Things that are learned in the fall are put to practical use in the spring when students create an event. For the first group, that event was the 8th Annual UIW Student Media Gala and Silent Auction held in February at the McCombs Center Rosenberg Sky Room.
Sarah Stockman, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts and will also be pursuing her master’s degree at UIW, assisted in planning the 2014 gala before the event planning course was offered. That test run and the course itself gave Stockman good insight into the planning process.
“I learned a lot through the course,” Stockman said. “Although there were some bumps along the way, as there are when planning any event, the final outcome made all the hard work worth it.”
Reyna said the challenges that Stockman mentioned can be beneficial in helping students get a grasp of some of the difficult things that might be waiting down the road during a career assignment. “When people didn’t carry their weight and do their work, it was hard,” Reyna said. “But I felt it was a lesson in the real world because people are not always going to be excited about being part of a committee. Everyone else had to pick up the slack and they all had to work together.”
The result was the gala that provided proceeds that benefitted UIW’s student-run newspaper and Internet TV and radio stations. Local media outlets produced segments on the event. Seeing those student efforts come together for a single goal was a moment of pride for Reyna. “I love seeing the students grow and when they see what their own strengths are,” Reyna said. “It’s prideful for them to show what they can do to their peers, parents, the faculty and alumni at the event. To see their confidence grow when they ask businesses for (silent) auction items, that becomes part of our auction. It’s exciting to see them express themselves and do things like create costumes, invitations and decorations.”
For students who might be planning public or private events during their careers, there is the need to be prepared for situations when the resources available in a smaller town or rural area will not be the same as what is on hand in San Antonio. That has been a group effort that has included Reyna getting input from other businesspeople.
“Throughout the semester, Mrs. Reyna invited several speakers to help us think about the big picture of event planning,” Stockman said. “We were able to learn skills that were not only helpful to planning the gala, but also skills that will be helpful in the future if we intend on pursuing event planning professionally.”
Reyna is interested to see what a new class brings to the learning process. “I had 15 girls this year…I’m excited to see guys and girls who know about things like film and graphic design,” Reyna said. “In a co-ed class, I’m interested to see if they will learn differently.”
To learn more about UIW’s new event planning course, contact Yvette Reyna at firstname.lastname@example.org