Events Management Hosts Millions, but Stays Unique

Posted: October 3, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

The Office of Events Management at Mason is involved with thousands of events each year, and its staff helps facilitate the visit of more than a million people to campus annually.

The office coordinated nearly 21,000 activities with 1.5 million guests during the 2005-06 academic year, according to Shamika Stevens, the assistant director of Events Management.

President Merten with Events Management staff
President Alan Merten posed with Events Management staff during the annual faculty and staff holiday party last year. The party is one of thousands of events they manage each year.
Photo by Evan Cantwell

Stevens estimates 85 to 90 percent of the events the office handles are staged for Mason students, faculty and staff, and she says the number of bookings has tripled since she began working in Events Management as the community events manager in 2004.

“We are the face of an event,” says Executive Director Barbara Lubar. “Someone has to decide where the bus is going. But we drive the bus. We wanted to be a best practice, like a hotel that hosts an event. At a hotel, you just have to walk in and they take care of you. That is what we try to emulate.”

While Events Management has offices on the Fairfax Campus (in Student Union Building II), they are a contracted company. Lubar says most people are surprised to learn her workers are not university employees.

Lubar and her company, Educational Support Services, began a partnership with Mason about 10 years ago.

“We kind of proved our worth, and the office got bigger,” says Lubar.

The unit stands out from the crowd, especially among its peers at universities across the country. Lubar says very few universities have a separate company that handles events on site.

The biggest event of the year for her staff is commencement exercises in the spring.

“I think it is unique. Most commencements [at other schools] are handled by the president’s office, and that can be a big problem,” says Lubar, who adds that the details of planning a huge event can be taxing for an already busy office at a crucial time of year.

Chris Beery, the operations manager for Events Management, is a regular around the Fairfax Campus, as he can be seen heading to and from events, usually in a golf cart. He works closely with a variety of offices to coordinate services.

“We are offering scheduling and management,” says Beery. “When we schedule an event, we are looking for an appropriate location for this client. We guide them through the rest of the process.”

For example, perhaps the Mason History and Art History Department wants to bring faculty members from other schools to the Fairfax Campus for a program at one of the rooms in the Johnson Center. The department will send out the invitations, but it is Events Management that will finalize all the logistics.

Some of the major events Lubar’s staff have worked on recently include the annual Fall for the Book festival and Chris Matthew’s “Hardball” telecast from the Center for the Arts last year. But perhaps the most memorable event in recent history was the visit to Mason by Sen. Barack Obama last February.

“It was exciting. It was stressful at the same time,” says Stevens. “We had very little time to plan that event. Everyone kind of pulled together. Everyone understood the nature of the event.”

Beery, who has been at Mason for about 11 years, says, “It was one of the top five events I was involved with at Mason in terms of attendance, interest and media attention.”

Events Management also organizes the annual Mason holiday party and coordinates about five or six events per year held at Mathy House, the home of President Alan and Sally Merten.

Events at Mathy House include new faculty receptions, receptions for students and holiday parties. “[Merten] is the best thing that could have happened to us. The Mertens are wonderful to work with,” says Lubar.

Lubar notes that Events Management, as a separate entity, can hire temporary or part-time staff on an as-needed basis very quickly. And that is important since Events Management can get an assignment at the last minute.

On Lubar’s office wall is a poster of a dog riding a tricycle while balancing a cat and other animals on its shoulders. “The trick to life is to make it look easy,” reads the caption. That’s her office motto, she says.

The work done by Events Management may not be easy. But the staff recognizes that the rewards are worth it.

“We are very aware of what impact a good event has on the university’s image, which is why we are under the University Relations umbrella,” says Beery. “If we can run an event very professionally, that is going to reflect well on the university.”

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