Frankly, it’s driving her crazy.
While she enjoys challenges such as helping stage virtual events during the pandemic-forced campus closure and finding ways to help the class of 2020 celebrate from afar, Missy Arendash craves human contact. And lots of it.
She describes herself as “the definition of 100 percent extroverted,” so working from home just isn’t working for the associate director for programs and events in Alumni Engagement & Annual Giving.
But this year’s Administrative Faculty Member of the Year is trying to put her time at home to good use, learning new work skills and, during her off-work hours, conducting some personal self-reflection and picking up some new hobbies.
What is a typical day like for you?
It’s everywhere. We are getting pulled in all different directions. One moment I am wearing my alumni hat and focusing on how to have a great alum event. And then I’m shifting to career services. What does that same traditional career services event look like when you are adding alumni? You need to put on that lens and see what that looks like for alumni.
I am something of a cheerleader. One of my biggest things is collaboration. We’re not the only ones doing virtual events. Colleges and units are doing this, too. Hospitality, for example, is doing some wonderful programming. We want to help be the navigators of that.
Is there a recent project of which you are particularly proud?
We’ve launched 20 for 20 — encouraging words to our class of 2020 to send off the graduating class in a great way. We put out a call to alumni and parents to send in words of encouragement.
We’ve had responses come in, not only from Nevada, but also from Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah. Some former faculty members responded. More than 100 people wrote in. Some of the messages are so touching. I’ve been posting those and made graphics to go with them.
This has been a success, so we plan to do it next year, too.
How did you land at UNLV?
This opportunity came up when I graduated with my master’s (in education) in 2014 from the University of West Florida I was looking everywhere. I was not location-bound. For college I already had moved 16 hours from home (in Cleveland) to Florida. I was like, “Where can I go next?”
I saw the job for Student Union event coordinator posted and thought, “Oh my gosh. How cool would it be to work in Las Vegas?” I was really fired up. I had never been to Las Vegas. They brought me out in the middle of July. Silly me, I wore panty hose for my interview. I was in a full skirt suit with pantyhose, dying.
How did you move to the alumni office?
As an event coordinator you have VIP clients. Alumni was my VIP client. I worked on the Scarlet and Gray experience at homecoming. Blake (Douglas) was my client and my contact. He was down a team member in alumni. I leaned in more than normal because I saw he needed the assistance. Two weeks after the event I saw him at Starbucks. He said, “I’m hiring you. I have a job and you need to apply.”
I actually interviewed for the alumni position on my six-month anniversary to the day. I gave six weeks’ notice. In April 2015 I moved to alumni.
Now I am associate director for programs and events for the Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement.
Tell us about your first job.
I worked at a party store called Sensational Celebrations — a little boutique party shop with a hometown feeling. My dad’s best friend, Bob Gentile, owned it. He really took me under his wing and taught me about events. I was like 10 years old when I first started. By the time I was in high school I was very involved. In the summers I would work all day, every day, and then worked during school breaks when I was in college.
It helped lay the foundation of my event experience. We did all sorts of things — birthday parties, bar mitzvahs. We did events for the Cleveland Clinic, the Browns, the Indians. I helped brides pick out invitations. I definitely got my fill of making balloon arrangements.
Some of the events were very elaborate. I knew that that’s where I wanted to go. I wanted to be in that world of wowing people.
Almost every day I’m still trying to make him proud.
What is your favorite spot on campus?
I love the academic mall. I like walking the mall, seeing it in motion. Sometimes I eat at the tables between Tam and the law school. I like seeing students doing events on the mall, eating at the tables, playing Frisbee.
You’re from Cleveland. Do you miss it?
I definitely love Cleveland, but I don’t love Cleveland’s weather. They just got snow in the middle of May. Most of my family is still there.
I’m a big Cleveland sports fan. I support everything there. I’m a huge Browns fan. I know we’re not the best, but this will be the year — maybe. (I say that every year.) I am definitely a Knights fan, though. We don’t have a hockey team in Cleveland so I was very excited when Las Vegas got a team.
You mentioned that you are doing some self-reflection.
This time has been challenging and a struggle for me. I already knew that I tied so much of who I am to my job and that I needed to think about that. And then this happened. I decided I’d better find something to do now.
I am trying to become a pitmaster. I got a smoker. Maybe I should take up knitting or crocheting.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Maybe that I am a Golden Girls fan. I am a “Dorothy” through and through. I have figurines in my office and I have a Golden Girls sunshade. I am a member of the Jimmy Buffet Club in Las Vegas — the secretary of the Phin City Parrot Heads. And I’m a big drag queen fan. I have been to RuPaul’s DragCon convention. I just love drag queens.
What the Person Nominating Her Had to Say
"[Missy] continues to plan and execute events and programs designed to engage the greater UNLV community, including donors, alumni, community members, and Rebel fans. This included over 50 events impacting well over 10,000 guests annually.
"Missy is not only a seasoned event planner but she must also find new and exciting ways to tell and share the UNLV story in all that we do. One way that she has been able to do that is through ensuring the UNLV brand and message is present at every event. This includes sharing meaningful student stories in an event script, ensuring the look and feel of the room highlights UNLV, and engaging our university leadership, faculty and staff, and students with our donors and alumni in educational and meaningful ways.
"Every day the work that we do, including Missy, in the Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement centers around advancing the Top Tier goals of the university. Whether she is planning a fundraising event to engage donors in support of our research efforts and/or student scholarships, producing an event that brings thousands of community members to campus...Missy's passion for her work and this university is immeasurable."