Working with Warrensburg Main Street, University of Central Missouri students are putting their knowledge of event planning into practice to create opportunities to attract people to the downtown area this spring while also enhancing the ability to market the community. Thanks to a student-Main Street partnership, planning is currently underway for what is tentatively coined “Snapshots of the ‘Burg."

The project began with nine students who were part of the junior-level Events Management course taught by Keira Solon, assistant professor in the Division of Business Strategy within the Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies. The initiative grew out of an idea that Main Street Director Jill Purvis shared with Solon last summer. It provided a win-win situation for Main Street to gain assistance from events marketing and management students in a way that would give them valuable experiential learning opportunities. In return, Main Street gets help promoting Warrensburg’s history and economic vitality.

With these overarching goals, during the fall 2019 semester Solon’s students divided into four teams to develop and pitch concepts for special events for Warrensburg Main Street’s leadership to consider. After weeks of planning, each team pitched their ideas to the Main Street leadership in September, which ultimately narrowed the choices down to two student proposals.

“We then divided the class into a team of four and a team of five, and they each respectively worked on one of the two ideas. The winning idea was called ‘Snapshots of the ‘Burg,’” Solon said, noting that the board also liked elements of the “Shop and Crawl,” event which was proposed by the second student team as a way to help spark commerce downtown.

“The idea behind ‘Snapshots of the ‘Burg’ is that it will begin with an online photo contest. One of Warrensburg Main Street’s needs is that they don’t have enough images for their marketing materials,” Solon said.

Students proposed that by sponsoring a photo contest, community residents could help share images of local dining opportunities, architecture, places of interest and more that Main Street can use in promotional materials. Elements of the ‘Shop and Crawl” also could be rolled into the final event to provide an opportunity for viewing the photographs and helping to select winning entries, while also providing a way to get people to visit local businesses.

“We’re still in the phase of figuring out how to merge the two proposals,” Solon said.

She added that her spring 2020 Advanced Events Management senior-level class will be responsible for finalizing event details with a goal to stage the event during Warrensburg Main Street’s first seasonal Art Walk on April 3. More information, including photo submission deadlines, will be announced as exact dates, times and opportunities are determined.

Students who participated in the “Snapshots of the ‘Burg” team were: Shota Huguchi, Isabel Anderson, Ashley Durbin, Anna Gicinto, and Meagan Williams. Representing the “Shop and Crawl” team were Kylie Thompson, Ashley James, Jake King and Chris Butler. Many of these students will return this spring.

Noting the benefits of working with students, Purvis said, “When having an opportunity to partner with a UCM class or organization, this creates the potential to showcase what Downtown has to offer as well as create real- life opportunities within a community they are living in that will have a lasting impact. Many times when a UCM group partners with us, they are unaware of what we do as an organization and what we offer for the Downtown community."

While students also learn about local stores and restaurants they may have not known existed beforehand, she said, such partnerships “create a ripple effect of sharing what they learn with peers and faculty which helps drive more foot traffic to our businesses. It also builds a hometown bond with them so they begin to see why many of us love Warrensburg."

Solon said over the next few months students involved in the project will gain experience in areas that also include social media and financial planning in collaboration with Main Street. She emphasized the value of what the experience has provided to date, and how it applies to career building.

“One of the main things they learned was how to listen to the client, take the client’s needs into consideration and then create something that appeals to the client as opposed to something that appeals to a particular student,” Solon said. “They’ve learned a lot of the restrictions of working for a non-profit organization in that budget is very limited. It forced students to really explore what had to be purchased, UCM promises an education that allows students to experience opportunity in action. Asked how this project meets that goal, Solon said;.

“They are getting experience that’s going far beyond the classroom that will impact them in numerous ways. The most obvious way is that it is something that will go on their resumes," she said.

Also, the relationships they are building with Warrensburg Main Street and local businesses could potentially open up professional opportunities for them. The other thing I think it’s doing is an unintended consequence … it’s getting those students involved with the local Warrensburg community, and it’s making them feel like they are part of the community as opposed to being exclusively part of UCM,” she said.

In the photo: As part of a competitive learning experience in the fall Events Management course, University of Central Missouri students presented proposals for a special event to Warrensburg Main Street. Shown with WMS leaders, the team with the winning proposal, “Snapshots of the ‘Burg,” includes, left to right, Shota Huguchi; Isabel Anderson; Ashley Durbin; Jill Purvis, WMS executive director; Jamie DeBakker, WMS event manager; Sarah Craig, WMS treasurer; Anna Gicinto; and Meagan Williams.

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