When events specialist and part-time instructor Ian Seidenberg heard rumblings of last-minute conference cancelations in Las Vegas, he knew something big was on the horizon.
Along with hospitality professor Murray Mackenzie and chef Mark Sandoval, Seidenberg teaches a course centered on planning "Evolution — Las Vegas Food & Wine Experience," an inaugural event and successor of longtime UNLV cultural festival UNLVino.
For years, it's been a seminal part of the curriculum for hospitality students. It gave them a comprehensive, real-world education on event planning as the took lead roles in everything from ticket sales to organizing a silent auction to coordination of volunteers and negotiating details with the venue.
As coronavirus concerns widened early in the spring, instructors knew there was no way for the show to go on in its planned April 18 bow.
"We felt very bad telling the students that the event has been postponed because some of the students were really looking forward to taking this class and working this event," Seidenberg said. "It was almost like a highlight of their senior year."
The course had already progressed to the point of finalizing venue layout and gathering silent auction items when coronavirus concerns hit Las Vegas. But the postponement proved a point about putting on events: You always have to be ready to pivot. Suddenly, the students became involved in alerting involved parties and refunding tickets while instructors compiled online coursework that could capture the spirit of a hands-on field of work with the hopes of staging the event in the fall.
"It proved very challenging because now we're not teaching the specifics of how to put on Evolution. It's now a broader, event management class," Seidenberg said. "Our goal is to prepare them on how to plan, produce, and execute an event regardless of the size, regardless of the nature of the event."
The sudden postponement could be disheartening for students, but it's also offering a greater lesson in the perseverance and adaptability required of anyone in a fast-paced business like event planning, Seidenberg said.
"With this class being so hands-on, [the teaching team] actually forms a great relationship with all of our students, and if classes were just canceled or we didn't do this, I don't think I could've gotten across to the students all of how to plan an event," he said. “You have to make changes and you have to make sacrifices. Be ready for change, be ready to be able to adapt to change, and, if you have an open mind, you'll be successful."