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Event connects Hospitality Management students with industry professionals

Big Dish serves up event planning experience, employment opportunities

May 1-5 is In-Demand Jobs Week, an annual statewide celebration of the jobs, industries and skills that are in demand in Ohio. Ohio State News highlights students as they transition from graduation into the workforce.

Students in The Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology Hospitality Management Program received hands-on experience in event planning when they presented the seventh annual Big Dish at Ohio Stadium on April 19.

The Big Dish brought together students, alumni, faculty and industry professionals for an evening of food, musical entertainment and stadium tours.

“It’s an opportunity for us students to learn the ins and outs of planning an event from start to finish and all of the different aspects that go into it,” said Megan Piatt, a graduating senior and student leader of this year’s Big Dish event planning committee.

Dean Don Pope Davis (third from right) with hospitality management student participants and graduating senior Katie Sweeney (left).Piatt and her classmates on the planning committee coordinated every detail of the Big Dish, working with Ohio Stadium vendors under the supervision of EHE faculty. Planning the Big Dish gave students an opportunity to put into practice what they learned in the classroom, she said.

“You’re working with real-world companies,” she said. “It’s doing the job of a full-on event planner, but with the guided help of a faculty member.”

Anne Turpin, a clinical assistant professor and director of the Hospitality Management Advisory Board, said the Big Dish also allows students to gain valuable experience and the ability to network with professionals who can provide them with potential internships and employment opportunities.

“We collaborate with industry partners to provide transformative and educational experiences,” she said.

Professionals who serve on the Hospitality Management Advisory Board share their expertise with students as they plan and execute such a large-scale event, said Molly Kurth, the board’s vice chair and senior vice president of corporate human resources, learning and talent development at food-service company Compass Group North America.

“One of the most fun aspects of participating in the Big Dish is having the opportunity to experience the students’ education in action,” she said. “We love getting the opportunity to see how their planning on everything from theme to venue to menu and program come together and highlight what they have learned in the program.”  

Rather than the more formal atmosphere of a job fair, the Big Dish offers a relaxed environment for students to interact with professionals, said Kim Bartley, a Hospitality Management Advisory Board member who is also an alumna and lecturer in the program.

“I enjoy seeing the students succeed and impress the industry with their skills that the faculty strive to support and nurture in them,” she said. “I enjoy showcasing how Ohio State experiences like this keep us supporting its programs and students.”

Hospitality Management students and alumni say the Big Dish is the culminating experience of their time at Ohio State, said Erik Porfeli, Department of Human Sciences chair.

“You’re bringing multiple elements of multiple courses together in this World Series of events, so to speak,” he said. “For the majority of our graduating students, this elevates their confidence, this elevates their connections with industry and how the industry sees and recognizes them. It’s a real boost as they’re considering their transition from Ohio State and into the hospitality workforce.”

Also at the Big Dish, Porfeli, Hospital Management Program administrators and advisory board members recognized students who received a total of $23,700 in named Scholarships.  Students with an interest in event planning, hospitality or a program that offers a variety of experiential learning opportunities, are encouraged to reach out to Turpin at turpin.26@osu.edu, or enroll in CSHPSMG 2600: Introduction into Hospitality to learn more.  

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