I keep hoping that one of these days I’ll move beyond having to put on events.
One of my first responsibilities when I came to USC 24 years ago was to put on the university’s first conference for the real estate development community. We were startled, amazed, delighted, and terrified when the phone and fax machine started to ring off the hook (remember this was before the advent of online registration) and we were looking at nearly 300 people showing up.
The Lusk Center staff at that point was, well, me. But this was the “coming out party” for the Lusk Center, critical to the new mission of the then-little School of Urban and Regional Planning and where our dean had planted his flag, so the entire school staff pitched in. Bing closed his fledging dental office for the day and came down to the Bonaventure Hotel to be an additional set of helping hands, placing astute priority on the importance to our family well-being that the conference succeed so I could keep my job.
That first conference was, thankfully, a roaring success. We went on to become a well-oiled event machine, creating a national presence for the Lusk Center. In fact, it was because of the Lusk Center’s conference collaboration with the ULI Los Angeles District Council that I ended up migrating to the Urban Land Institute, another organization that has lived and breathed by its events and sophisticated event management philosophies and techniques. After years of seeing me at a podium and shaking hands at receptions, people find it hard to believe that I’m truly an introvert; I’ve just learned to kick into “event mode” and turn on the public persona.
Since returning to USC in an academic affairs capacity, my events mercifully are more along the lines of admissions open houses, faculty talks, and student workshops. What, print name badges? Nah, just make sure we have enough food ordered from La Taquiza. But then last summer, I knew my conference number was up again, as June 2012 would be USC’s turn to host an annual international symposium for students, alumni, and faculty of eight graduate liberal studies programs.
So again with a small army of volunteers and an incredible half-time assistant (always hire someone with a film production background), this past weekend we hosted 90 visitors, guiding the Stanford and Reed College contingency to the Metro station on their quest for Philippe’s French dip sandwiches, explaining sopes and tamales to the European students, making sure everyone’s AV worked for their presentations, and calling a lot of audibles along the way. I do look forward to talking with my fellow program directors, all great scholars and fun folks, and managed to work my favorite Tennyson quote (the end of “Ulysses”) into my closing remarks.
The returns are in, and everyone had a great time. In fact, we might have overdone the hospitality. They all sound so impressed that they are eager to return. Like taxes, just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you want to keep doing it. . . .