Jess Derham Event Management La Trobe Business School

Every year, La Trobe Business School students organize events for their ‘Event Project’ capstone subject, as an assessment. We spoke to Elspeth Frew and Jessica Derham, – who coordinate and teach in the Event Management degree, – about this year’s events, student’s experiences and how the subjects helps students crucial event management skills.

You teach in the event management degree. Can you tell us something more about the course, and what students have to organise as part of their assessment?

The degree is a three year business degree, including four core subjects, eight event-related subjects, a number of electives, and industry experience like work placements or volunteering. There is also an opportunity for students to go on exchange after their first year, or take part in international field trips.

All students study a major in Event Management which includes the capstone subject Event Project. In the third year of the Event Management degree, students have the opportunity to conceptualise, plan, operate and evaluate a fund raising event where all proceeds are donated to either the Cancer Council of Victoria (for Bundoora students) or the OTIS Foundation (for Bendigo students). This subject has generated in excess of $100,000 in donations to these charities over 10 years. Each month students are encouraged to engage in event volunteering activities to allow them to gain valuable event related experience and to reinforce the importance of volunteers for the operation and survival of important community events. The uniqueness of this assessment places students in a real world environment, with the same challenges event planners deal with on a daily basis. For example, they need to consider sponsorship opportunities, organising all the logistical event, managing a budget, balancing the needs of several stakeholders and working in a team. All are very important skills to learn, which are developing our graduates into future event leaders. This has been demonstrated with one of the previous leaders in the subject, Kate Taylor, who went on to work for Cancer Council Victoria as the Events Team Coordinator. Her role included overseeing Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea and the Girls’ Night In events.

What are some of the most original events students have come up with over the years?

Over the years, students have organised events that ranged from movie nights and art sales to yoga events and clothing swaps. There are approximately 18-20 students involved in running different events, each has a team leader and organises an event of their own devising.

This year, five student groups have been asked to each organise something. The first event was a movie night and took place on the 21st of October. The night included free samples from Pancake Parlour and a photo booth, as well as a speech from a Cancer Council representative who spoke about the benefits to any donation received.

The event was very well attended, and students raised more than $1800 for Cancer Council!

La Trobe Business School works with a number of organisations for this course. What are some of the partnering institutions LBS has worked with? And how long for?

We have strong ties with government and industry in Melbourne’s north and in the Bendigo area established via our field visits, guest speakers and internship programs. These internships provide our students with the opportunity to work in the T,H&E sector for 100 hours per semester with private businesses, local councils and not for profit organisations.

The Tourism, Hospitality and Events discipline has had partnerships with the following institutions over the last  few years:

In 2015 we also have students completing internships with La Trobe Accommodation Services, the Eagle Bar, the City Campus and, the Wildlife Sanctuary.

How do you think this hands-on assessment helps students gain the skills they need to go out into the workforce later on?

The T,H&E degrees contains vocational types of assessment such as reports, presentations, press releases and strategic plans to ensure students have experience of these workplace practices before graduation. In several T,H&E subjects, career aspects have been embedded into the curriculum such as applying for a fictional T,H&E job and responding to key selection criteria. In third year students attend a Careers Seminar lead by the University Careers and Employability Service where they are provided with guidance on how to make a smooth transition to the workforce. Students are also invited to attend a farewell event in the last week of second semester, where they are encouraged to become members of the Alumni of La Trobe.

When asking students how they felt about the subject, the response are overwhelmingly positive. In the words of a student: “For me, the highlight of the subject was the practical, real-world experience. You can read a text book and try to apply the theory but the ups and downs, the challenges such as time management, task delegation, team communication and actually having to trust and rely on others, that was what made my experience pure and real.”  She noted that the subject bares a hefty work load and requires a lot of time and dedication, but she was happy once she completed the subject. “We didn’t want to give up and now we feel we have really achieved something.”

La Trobe Business School is looking forward to the 2016 edition of these events!