Park School Kicks Off Live Event Design and Management Minor

By Kyle Hornyak, October 25, 2018
Students get hands-on experience putting on major events.

Whether aspiring to supervise the Super Bowl or mastermind the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, IC students hoping to break into live event production can now dive deeper into creating show-stopping spectacles through a new minor. 

The live event design and management minor was launched to provide students with the conceptual and practical tools needed to excel in the growing field of live event production. The minor also provides an understanding of the way events affect society, politics, community, economics and culture. It is housed within the Department of Strategic Communication in the Roy H. Park School of Communications and coordinated by Associate Professor and CMD Program Director Dennis Charsky. 

Even before the official launch of the minor, IC students had been collaborating with faculty members and using innovative technology to produce large-scale events on a professional level.  When it came time to plan out the production schedule for last November’s Weekend on South Hill, part of the college’s 125th anniversary celebration, the college had to look no further than its own Park School to recruit live event professionals: IC students. 

Melissa Dey ’19 and Justin Jacksen ’19, both majoring in television-radio, served as lead producers of the Weekend on South Hill Community Celebration after expressing interest in Assistant Professor Chrissy Guest’s Live Event Production course. “Live event production is a big part of television, “Jacksen says. “It’s something that you need to know when you’re going into this industry. So this was a great opportunity to learn more about the TV industry and apply it in a live aspect.” 

Guest had been asked to direct the event, and was confident Dey, Jacksen and their classmates could ably handle the production. “The students drove the planning process from the beginning,” Guest says. “We had to pitch what we wanted to do, so the students got to learn a lot about client expectations, wants and timelines.”  

Led by Dey and Jacksen, the students were tasked with creating content to livestream to the home viewer audience during “commercial breaks between performances at the celebration, along with managing the technical logistics of the livestream broadcast overall. Students produced a segment where guests were interviewed on the “blue carpet,” as well as segments on Cortaca and the Purity Ice Cream IC flavor reveal. The team even built a control room from scratch.  

“You don’t realize what a big deal it is until you’re there to see it and get a sense of how many important people are watching and seeing what you’re doing,” Dey says. It’s amazing when something you put your heart and soul into goes out there and looks great.” 

David Prunty, executive director of auxiliary services, recalls that having students create segments that filled the content gaps was extremely helpful. “That was a huge, complex component of the program,” Prunty says. “[The Weekend on South Hill] was easily the most complex event I’ve ever been a part of at IC, and I’ve been here 30 years.” 

“We must have done the rundown four or five times,” Dey says. “[Chrissy Guest] served as executive producer/lifesaver. What she was really there for was just in case something occurred that was out of range of our skills.” 

Guest concurs that she served as a safety net for students, and let them run with the opportunity. “My philosophy is, ‘You don’t learn anything without failing,’ Guest says. “But I wanted to make sure that, no matter what, there was a comfort level for the students.”  

By Dey’s and Jacksen’s accounts, The Weekend of South Hill live events all went smoothly and seamlessly. “I loved seeing it all come together,” Dey says. I was ready to take on all these issues, and had to be ready for anything. Fortunately, nothing major went wrong! 

“Now that I’ve taken the class, it has opened so many opportunities for me and where I can take my career,” Jacksen says. It broadened my skills as to what I can do, and I feel more confident for sure. Looking back, it’s incredible we were able to successfully execute an awesome livestream broadcast.” 

To celebrate the launch of IC’s live event design and management minor, distinguished alumni who manage large-scale events in various fields shared their experiences at a panel reception on October 26. The panelists were: Amy Kule ’87, founder and CEO of Merry Wonderer and former group vice president for Macy's Parade and Entertainment Group; Doug Weisman ’78, president and producer/director of Weisman Video Productions and former chairman of VideolinkMarc Wollin ’78, video and event writer/producer/director and stage manager for such companies as the NBA and Bank of America; and Ed Alpern ’78, owner of Alpern Communications