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This New University Program Is Offering Hands-On Industry Experience for the Next Generation of Event Pros

Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management partnered with marketing agency Factory360 to curate simulated workshops for students looking to break into the event industry post-graduation.

At FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, students are actively participating in workshops and listening to speakers.
At FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, students are actively participating in workshops and listening to speakers.
Photo: Courtesy of Kevin Galante

Florida International University (FIU) has partnered with South Florida-based marketing agency Factory360 to give students hands-on experience in preparation for their careers after graduation in the form of an event incubator, an educational start-up designed to foster students’ success. The collaborative effort is in response to the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the global travel and tourism industry. 

“Our goal is to train tomorrow’s airline, hotel, restaurant and major event venue managers so that they are better equipped to handle large crises like pandemic shutdowns,” explains Factory360 partner Gabriela Neves.

Factory360's Gabriela NevesFactory360's Gabriela NevesPhoto: Courtesy of Factory360More than 1,700 undergraduate and graduate students make up FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management—the largest specialty program in the curriculum for both undergraduate and graduate students. While the incubator is still in its pilot stage (the program currently has 36 students, who are all encouraged to wear masks during the experience), the university expects future semesters to involve all students looking to break into the meeting and event industry post-graduation. 

To get a better understanding of what the event incubator will offer to students, BizBash asked Factory 360's Gabriela Neves to dish on what the experiential marketing agency has planned for the project. 

What will the incubator experience look like for students? 
The incubator is meant to be versatile to complement different career paths. Discussions [will] vary from event concept development to career planning to chatting about the event professionals' previous experiences—about everything from successes to failures, how each got started in the industry or event differences in different regions of the country. Students will also get to see those ideas come to fruition, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of a career in events.

But one doesn’t need to be a student enrolled in a specific events management course to benefit from opportunities. Chances to produce podcasts featuring industry leaders, participate in a documentary on event design, create an “unsnarky” version of Shark Tank to give recent graduates with an idea a forum by which to present it. By designing, building and implementing installations at either the School’s African Culinary Festival, Brewfest or possibly the huge South Beach Wine & Food Festival, students can “incubate” their talents.

How did the collaboration between FIU and Factory360 come about? 
A major in events is a relatively nascent degree–the majority of midlevel to senior-level executives in the industry did not have access to an events degree. Programs such as the one at FIU are fundamental to growing talent in our industry, and Factory360 is there to expand its network for job opportunities and industry connections, as well as to provide real-time and real-life exposure in class, at FIU events and at Factory360 events.

Events management has become considerably more complex in the last decade, with technology exploding, social media growing in importance, expectations of individualized experience being held by many attendees, the COVID-fed growth of virtual and hybrid events, the gradual “festivalization” of meetings and conferences, and the experiential component becoming more vital to trade show exhibits and show producers. Even the desired components of weddings and receptions are changing. Due to this increased complexity, more conscious education for the industry’s budding professionals is needed.

What type of real-life situations will incubator experiences prepare students for?
Nothing like actual experience can fully prepare a student for events work. This brings to them all the actual issues an event planner faces daily but goes without appreciation when events are studied from only a theoretical basis. Since textbooks are dated almost as soon as they are published, this keeps the education of FIU students on the cutting edge. Students will experience the exhilaration of a successfully completed event, but also the pains of vendors potentially missing deadlines, clients changing their minds or the vagaries of weather.

Students, professor Dan Cormany and Factory360’s Gabriela Neves in the classroomStudents, professor Dan Cormany and Factory360’s Gabriela Neves in the classroomPhoto: Courtesy of Kevin Galante

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