Learning by Doing: Students Plan Annual SEEM Forum

How many college students get the opportunity to plan and execute an event from start to finish before graduation? For Sports, Entertainment, Event — Management (SEEM) students, it’s an expected part of the program experience. One of the ways students get this opportunity is by participating in a Directed Educational Experience (DEE) course, which is a project-based class where students execute professional-level work under the guidance of a professor, giving them résumé-worthy industry experience before graduation.

A group of students standing in front of a building.

Students in Associate Professor Jeffrey Longo’s Directed Experiential Education course.

During this semester’s Directed Educational Experience course, JWU Charlotte students planned the annual SEEM Forum, which is a conference that brings industry experts to campus to speak to students about career paths, share advice, discuss trends in the industry, and recount their own experiences as students and emerging leaders. Students were divided into programming, marketing, and execution committees to tackle the multifaceted aspects of planning a large-scale event.

“Planning this event gave me a lot of perspective. You don't really think about the small details unless you're actually in charge of them,” shared Chris Hayes ’23, who is pursuing the sports management specialization. “Now, when I work game days at the Charlotte Football Club, I’m paying attention to all of the details.”

“My biggest takeaway is that no event is perfect. They may look perfect from the outside but there are always small hiccups. Having to adjust and problem solve is definitely a challenge, but a good skill to have in the sports, entertainment and event world,” added SEEM major Jada Elias ’24.

Four people sitting at tables with microphones.

Panelists (left to right): Trudi Lacey, JWU Charlotte Athletics Director; Cathy Buchhofer, Vice President of Arena Operations at the Charlotte Hornets; Grace Eng Harper, Vice President of Special Events at Charlotte Knights; Destiny Washington ’21, Associate Manager at the Wasserman Agency

Students selected “Women in Sports” for this year’s theme. “People are starting to recognize that women belong in sports and are getting into the industry in bigger roles, so we wanted to emphasize that,” shared Mikayla Tucker ’25, a SEEM major who also plays on the women’s volleyball team. It’s an especially timely topic, as the event fell on the heels of the most viewed NCAA women’s basketball tournament in program history.

Tera Black, chief operating officer of American Hockey League team Charlotte Checkers, gave the keynote address and Trudi Lacey, JWU Charlotte Athletics Director and recent NC State Hall of Fame inductee, spoke on the panel. “Tera and Trudi are both very successful. It was great to sit and hear from them, build those connections, and get their insights. These women have already broken barriers so it’s great to talk with them and ask for advice,” added Tucker.

“Tera really nailed it when she talked about being the only women in the room,” shared Karen Cruz-Rangel ’24, who is also specializing in sports management. “I was mesmerized by all of the women speakers and alumni. I just thought, ‘Wow, as a woman, I can do this,’ because they’ve been there and done it.”

Between the fireside chat, panel, alumni lunch and speed networking session, the SEEM Forum hosted 24 sports and event planning professionals from a range of industries. “I would say my favorite part of the event was interacting with different people from different organizations and finding out the different responsibilities that you could have. I didn't realize how many jobs in sports are under the sports management umbrella,” added Hayes.

Three students sitting at a table talking

Students networked with alumni and industry professionals during lunch and a speed networking session.

All students emphasized the importance of communication and networking. Learning how to professionally address others in email and in person was key to the success of the event. “You want to act in a professional manner, so getting the chance to put what I’ve learned in other classes to use was really great. Now I feel more prepared,” added Tucker. 

Reflecting on the experience, Elias shared, “The highlight of the event was seeing all of our hard work come to life and then see students networking with professionals and talking to alumni. It really gives a sense of accomplishment.”

“I don't think we can emphasize that enough,” adds Cruz-Rangel. “There’s a sense of relief in knowing that as a first-year at this event, you can look and see what opportunities are coming, and know that’s going to be you at some point. I'm proud of myself and proud of the support that we have at Johnson & Wales.”

For Hayes, it was knowing that his involvement will help him showcase his skillset to future employers. “This is a great experience that can be used on your résumé. Having this experience means recruiters will know, ‘Hey, you are capable of doing this because you’ve done it before.’ The skills that I learned planning the SEEM Forum will carry with me for a lifetime.”

A special thank you to all of our Alumni Lunch guests:

  • Sofia Batres-Josifovski ’21, Special Events Manager at The Mint Museum
  • Jamie Hundley ’19, Program Director at Center City Partners
  • Julie Lawhon-Marks ’21, Deputy Director  at North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame & Museum
  • Bailie Maiolo ’18, Pricing Consultant at Compass Group
  • Nezzie Miranda ’20, Fan Experience Coordinator at Charlotte Football Club
  • Kolbe Robinson ’15, Operations & Guest Services Manager  at NASCAR Hall of Fame
  • Andrew Sanchez ’19, Outside Sales Account Manager at Albemarle Paper Supply
  • Jaida Simmons ’20, Athletics Learning Services Intern at University of Tennessee- Knoxville
  • Molly Svizeny ’19, Event Coordinator at the Charlotte Motor Speedway
  • Alexia Walker ’14, Senior Director of Marketing and Partnerships at American Ultimate Disc League