Integrating practice with theory through student engagement in local community events
Place of Publication
School of Marketing, Tourism and Leisure
This paper is based on the premise that in order to provide students of event management with the skills and knowledge to run events, they must firstly experience organising and managing an 'actual' event. Balancing the theoretical input with the practical aspects of events in Tertiary degree courses in event management will enable such students to become multitasking and as a result gain highly portable skills that will help them succeed in securing employment in event management and many other, associated professions. One of the most important challenges facing higher education institutions in the future will be to equip students with the skills necessary to secure professional employment, such as in event management. Indeed, in a survey involving 1100 employers in Australia Neilsen (2000) reported that the five most important skills needed for graduate employment were oral business communication skills, creativity, problem-solving skills, independent and critical thinking skills, and flexibility. Furthermore, Greenan et al (1997) reported similar findings in the UK, as did Braxton et al (1996) in the United States. Experiential learning approaches are a valuable tool to overcome the knowledge-practice gap recognised in many vocationally orientated disciplines (Kennedy, Lawton & Walker, 2001) In this study, an experiential learning model and rationale was put into practice with undergraduate students in an Introduction to Events (Recreation 212) module/unit, in partnership with Sport Canterbury (one of 17 regional Sports Trusts, throughout New Zealand). Students enrolled on this module/unit were made responsible for every aspect of managing the annual Rebel Kiwi Sport Challenge (a series of recreation based half to full day events for primary school children based in the Canterbury region). During the module/unit students explored the creation and manipulation of an event experience and gained real life, hands on experience and in this process, acquired skills and knowledge that helped them plan, implement, and evaluate an event.