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More Than A Festival

Student experiences are the focus of Greenspun College of Urban Affairs partnership to launch the Emerge + Music festival.

Campus News  |  Mar 21, 2018  |  By Ian Whitaker

UNLV journalism student Vanessa McConnell interviewing Rehan Choudhry for KUNV radio.

Rehan Choudhry is designing a new approach to festivals, and he’s learning from UNLV students in the process.

Choudhry’s media and events company, A Beautiful Perspective, partnered with UNLV’s Greenspun College of Urban Affairs in fall 2017 to offer students real-world experiences in the run-up to the company’s festival Emerge Impact + Music, beginning April 6 at various venues around Las Vegas.

Emerge staff work out of Greenspun Hall, where students from the college, the journalism school’s radio station KUNV, and across campus can easily collaborate with Choudhry’s team.

Four students from journalism, fine arts, hospitality, and business have been hired as interns to help with the festival. Students are pitching stories to the editors of A Beautiful Perspective’s website and have worked on stories recently covering the 2018 Women’s March in January.

Choudhry, who co-founded the mega-popular Life is Beautiful festival in downtown Las Vegas, looked at the success of TED conferences, popular for their online videos of attention-grabbing lectures, and felt the model could be tweaked to incorporate a musical twist. Emerge will feature performances by dozens of up-and-coming bands and artists alongside speakers who will discuss a wide range of topics, including climate change and LGBTQ rights.

Fun but Informative

“The idea is to create events that people can attend that are fun but also raise awareness for a wide range of social issues that are plaguing society and the world today,” said Choudhry. “We’re creating a new business model.”

Part of that model includes letting the students guide him as much as he is mentoring them, Choudhry said.

Take the experience of recent journalism graduate Bruce Gil. “I’ve learned a lot about doing things quickly, being flexible, and being comfortable with ambiguity because the environment is constantly changing. Anything can happen at any time,” said Gil, who started as an intern for Life is Beautiful and was hired full time as a research assistant for the Emerge festival.

Gil continues to host La Alternativa, a show for KUNV radio.

He pitched a conference session idea to the Emerge team to feature the hosts of a podcast called “Latinos Who Lunch.” Gil had interviewed the podcast hosts for his show and for a magazine writing class taught by visiting journalism lecturer Amanda Fortini. His idea worked and the hosts are part of an Emerge panel called “Owning Your Voice.”

Now Gil, along with his many other festival roles, will be behind the scenes of the panel, ensuring logistics run smoothly.

Building Skills

“This partnership gives students the opportunities to build their skills in communication, leadership, community engagement, public relations, and storytelling.,” said Robert Ulmer, dean of the Urban Affairs College. “Students across the campus can explore how the company formed, how ideas take shape, what it’s like to manage teams, and creating positive community impact.”

Choudhry said he wants students across UNLV to engage with the staff, drop by during office hours, discuss their ideas, and brainstorm with staff. As the partnership develops, Choudhry wants to hear from students about what issues they care about and would like to see addressed at future conferences.

And, of course, he encourages the students, faculty, and staff to attend the festival. “We want the academic community to be in the same room as some of the most influential music producers and thought leaders,” he said, adding that it could lead to “a cool collaborative moment.”

Choudhry has been connected to UNLV since he was invited to speak as a 2015 UNLV Creates speaker. He’s been a frequent speaker at Urban Affairs events and in classes, sharing his career challenges, tips on creating businesses, and advice on how to foster relationships with community members, business leaders, and city and county officials.