What is your job title and how long have you been with the UI?
I'm director of special events in Chancellor Michael Aiken's office. I've been at the UI 13 years, first at the Illini Union in Student Activities. In November 1994, I came to the chancellor's office, and in April 1996 I was named director of special events.
How many people work in your office?
There are three people: myself, the assistant director and a secretary.
What does your office do?
We plan campus events hosted by the chancellor, such as groundbreakings, building dedications, awards ceremonies, luncheons and receptions, and some annual events, such as the new student convocation. In the fall, we have a faculty recognition event the chancellor's dinner, which celebrates academic excellence. We also plan commencement. That's somewhat unusual because it's not the chancellor's event, but we are the host campus. We also do things such as the chancellor's holiday card mailing. Our office also works with other offices on campus. For example, in planning a building dedication, we would work closely with the [host] department. They have good ideas and know how to customize an event for their depart-ment. We also work as consultants for other units answering questions about etiquette and protocol. There also are some standard events such as on football weekends, when the chancellor hosts guests.
The UI has had some high-profile speakers for commencement. This year was Diane Sawyer. Another year, Hillary Clinton. How do you get such well-known people to speak at the UI commencement ceremonies?
[Chancellor Aiken] has the final say on the selection of a speaker. He solicits input from students, faculty members, alumni and friends of the UI. The chancellor does the official invitation and our office handles the arrangements for the speaker's visit. We work with the speaker's staff to set up the itinerary, travel plans, ordering a cap and gown, and providing the speaker with background information on the UI. Usually it's one of our alumni, friends or faculty members who helps bring us the speaker. This year, one of our alumni who works with Diane Sawyer helped us to bring her here.
How far ahead do you plan events?
Commencement is a yearlong planning process. Some events we have less than one week's notice. Building dedications and ground-breaking ceremonies can start as much as a year in advance. It all depends on how large the event is. Some events are even a couple of years out. We like to plan with advance warning.
What is most challenging about your job?
A building dedication or groundbreaking is often the biggest event a unit will experience during the year, or for that matter in several years. For us, however, it is one of many large events for the year. We not only have to juggle our own timelines, deadlines and priorities, but those of other units as well.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy meeting colleagues in units across campus and working with them in the planning of their events. There are a lot of creative folks out there who are closet event planners and I enjoy working with them. As for the field of event planning, there is always the excitement of seeing all your hard work and planning come together on the day of the event. And it's equally amazing how quickly the event is over and done with and then you're on to the next one which you have been simultaneously working on while planning the other.