By Mary Tucker, IAEE Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Professor Andrew R. Fraser, M.Ed., CHE at the Johnson & Wales University Center for Sports, Entertainment and Event Management has a passion for the industry that shines through with every interaction that he has with his students. He understands the importance of the exhibitions and events industry, and why we need to expand our outreach at the collegiate level. As an integral part in the formation of the Johnson and Wales IAEE student chapter a few years back, he has been working each semester to attract new student members. Has has also been extremely helpful in the efforts to create new additional student chapters at DePaul University, Georgetown University, and Lexington College. He is currently active with the IAEE Faculty Advisory Committee and contributing to the rewrite of the IAEE Art of Show Textbook. Here, Andrew discusses the academic perspective of the industry and his experience with preparing young professionals to enter the industry.
You played an integral role in the formation of a student chapter at Johnson & Wales University, as well as helped other universities form their student chapters. What compelled you to create the student chapter at J&W and what advantages do students gain from joining?
I joined the faculty of Johnson & Wales University in the Fall of 2011 after a number of years working for SMG at the Rhode Island Convention Center. I was very familiar with IAEE from my time in the industry, so when we received a call asking if we’d be interested in starting a student chapter I readily accepted the offer to become the faculty advisor and begin the process. The chair of the Young Professionals committee at the time, Greg McCormack, CEM, is a JWU alum and was the one that reached out to us and was a driving force in helping us with the process. We believed having an IAEE student chapter would provide tremendous educational and industry exposure for our students. From the students’ perspective, IAEE provides them with such incredible educational resources and experiences to enhance their classroom learning, networking and mentoring opportunities with industry professionals and the ability to be involved with other students that have like-minded career goals.
When teaching students about the exhibitions and events industry, do you find that their concept of the industry is accurate? What do you see as the biggest draw to the industry for students? What is the biggest misconception?
Most students have no concept at all about the exhibitions industry simply due to a lack of exposure to it growing up. Most have never attended a conference or trade show, and if they have they were not exposed to the behind-the-scenes workings of the event. Once they begin to learn about the industry and they see the vast opportunities available to them their excitement grows. Students see the value of face-to-face events in business and understand the importance the industry plans. They are amazed by the many different paths they can take in their career ranging from associations to venues to decorators to suppliers, and more along with the numerous positions in each area. Their biggest misconception is their ability to break into the industry through internships, entry-level jobs or management training programs. I believe the industry needs to continue to work to create training programs for young professionals to learn all aspects of the business much like the hotel industry has done.
What are the most common questions you receive from your students about having a career in the industry?
Students always ask about the various paths they can take within the industry. They seek to understand the numerous channels of the industry and the type of jobs in each industry. They ask how the career paths intersect and how the companies work together to put together such amazing events. They are curious as to whether operations or sales or event services is the best way to enter the industry, and if there are management training programs within their favorite companies.
I’ve been able to take a number of students to Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition over the past few years and they are amazed by the time that industry professionals spend with them to answer all their questions. I encourage my students to seek out mentors in the industry and I urge IAEE members to give back to students and young professionals by serving as a mentor.
You have done significant work with young professionals in the industry. What direction do you predict young professionals will take the industry?
Young professionals are obviously the future of our industry and we need to embrace them, and help them grown into leadership roles. Many of today’s leaders fell into the business by chance and learned by doing. Today’s YPs are coming into the industry with formalized training and degrees in event management. Johnson & Wales University provides students with experiential learning in the event industry including the class, International Exhibitions and Events, where students plan and manage their own trade show. Many other university programs offer similar course work. When students enter the industry they are ready to contribute from day one. It is important that we embrace their passion and build upon it. And it is extremely important that companies recognize the need to provide management training programs for students and YPs to enable them to learn from their company executives the values and culture.
Technology has impacted the industry in so many ways and will continue to do so in the future. YPs embrace technology in all aspects of their daily lives and in their careers. They will continue to expand its use and impact going forward through the use of apps, social media, and video chat or enhanced visual communications as media technologies evolve. I believe YPs will reshape the way meetings are held. We will witness the expansion of social meet-ups and discussions, more campfire settings on show floors and less time spent sitting in meeting rooms.
What five pieces of advice would you give a young professional formulating their career in the exhibitions and events industry?
I have been fortunate to be able to mentor hundreds of students during my career and find that there are some key words of advice that resonate with most as they enter the industry:
- Seek to Understand. You’re not expected to know all the answers so never hesitate to ask questions. You can only grow by gaining knowledge and understanding all aspects of the task at hand.
- Be Flexible. Every opportunity presented to you is a chance to grow and expand your talents and abilities. Do not pass up any situation that is presented to you if it has the potential to help you grow in your career.
- Synergize. As a professional you are part of a team, and to be successful in this industry everyone must work together to create and execute a successful event. Everyone on a team plays a key role in the success of the team.
- Be a Lifelong Learner. Take advantage of the many educational opportunities available to you. Pursue advanced degrees, industry certifications and learning opportunities through IAEE. Knowledge is power and it is important to your career success.
- Be Involved and Give Back. Work can be all-consuming and free time can be limited, but it’s important to your personal well-being and professional growth to help others just as others have helped you. Get involved in IAEE and your local chapter. Become a mentor to students and other young professionals. Volunteer to help others. “It’s Not Who You Know But Who Knows You” is one key to success, and being involved and giving back gets you known.
The 2016 Call for Nominations for the IAEE Awards is now open! Visit www.iaee.com/awards for more information about the various award categories and their corresponding criteria as well as submit your nominations for deserving colleagues whose outstanding efforts merit recognition.