University of Central Missouri: Student-Proposed “Experience Delirium” Event Extends Powell Gardens’ Potential Outreach to New Visitors Age 21 and Beyond

While Powell Gardens has much to offer visitors who come in droves to experience its beautiful grounds and special events only a short drive east of Kansas City, a group of University of Central Missouri students are embracing an opportunity to help attract more young patrons to this botanical jewel.

Five students in Assistant Professor Keira Solon’s Introduction to Events Management: EMM 3825 course within the Events Marketing and Management major met Nov. 15 with members of Powell Gardens’ Board of Directors and administrative staff to pitch their proposal for a special event they believe will appeal to a college-age audience. Scheduled for March 24, 2022, the proposed “Experience Delirium” is a pop-up night club-style activity that will coincide with the spring exhibition event. Tickets will be required for an evening that features a temporary dance club with DJ, food truck, cocktails, soft drinks, and glow-in-the-dark displays tied to botanical surroundings.

“Ultimately, this is a fundraiser,” said Kaylee Tieman, a senior events marketing and management major from Harrisonville. Missouri.” We are trying to raise funds for Powell Gardens because they are a non-profit, but even bigger than that, we want to introduce our age demographic – 21 and up – to Powell Gardens.”

“A lot of us – our age – have never been to Powell Gardens,” Tieman added. “We pass it on the highway but we never stop in and check it out. But it’s such a great place. We want to introduce our peers to this place.”

Tieman and her four classmates presented to the Powell Gardens leadership following an introduction by Solon, who spoke about the purpose of her student’s involvement in this project. A 12-year veteran to UCM, Solon has been in the Management department for six years and taught Events Management and Marketing courses for the past four years. Her students in this class take a team-like approach on projects that provide a valuable community service, but also give them real-life experiences that will better prepare them for the job market.

Solon said her students met virtually on Sept. 29 with Powell representatives and discussed five different ideas, based on goals that Powell Gardens had set for its collaboration with UCM. From those five ideas, the students focused on two possible projects, one of which Powell representatives deemed the most favorable. They shared more details about the initiative and fielded questions from the organizations’ board and staff during the recent in-person meeting on campus. UCM students are now taking to heart suggestions offered during this session in preparation for the event. This process will bring a few new faces to the planning table in the months to come.

“In the spring, students in our Advanced Events Management: EMM 4825 course will actually execute this event and assess it for future improvement,” Solon said. Some students who participated in the fall class will be part of this effort.

The opportunity to assist with events marketing and management at one of the Kansas City region’s popular outdoor destination spots provides an opportunity for students to spread their wings as event planners on a larger scale. Since the academic program’s inception, Solon’s students have worked within the campus and local community on three projects. The first such in initiative involved the Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies, which also hosts the EMM program. This was followed by an award-winning project with Warrensburg Main Street, then RISE Community Services.

“Powell Gardens is the biggest client we have worked with,” Solon said. “They provided the highest budget and also have the highest expectations on return of that budget, so we are glad to be upping our game in this particular partnership.”

A Warrensburg resident and 2017 graduate of the Harmon College, Hali Mieser is an events specialist in the development office at Powell Gardens who has worked with Solon and her students. She witnessed the evolution of the “Experience Delirium” project since students shared their initial ideas in September.

“I thought they did a great job,” she said in talking about the EMM students most recent efforts. “It was fun coming back as an alumna because now I understand – I’ve seen it full circle. I have been in their shoes so I was trying to be super supportive and encourage them and assure them I have been through this, and they are going to make it through. But it was really exciting to see the growth from where we first started and where they are now.”

Students noted the satisfaction that comes with adding presentation experience to their resumes, albeit a growth opportunity that was not easy.

“It was pretty intimidating but once everyone got in there and started speaking, the nerves died down,” said Whitney Smith, a junior from Blue Springs, Missouri, who wants to be a professional wedding planner. “We feel really good about what we did.”

Smith joined Jacob Meeker, a student from Union, Missouri, who recently switched his major to EMM, in outlining the financial aspects of this project. He is glad to have the presentation behind him as he looks to the future.

“Now that it is done, I am excited to continue on with the next steps, and really just get into the next semester,” Meeker said.

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