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Center for Student Engagement: A Career Launchpad for the Competitive Entertainment Industry

At the Center for Student Engagement, students gain unique professional experiences that they can apply to their future careers. They also learn valuable transferable skills, such as negotiating with vendors and event planning.

“One of the things that I have really loved through my time working in the Center for Student Engagement has been watching our students take the transferable skills they learn from their work with us and apply it towards rewarding careers,” says Ashleigh Moyer, director of the center.

One area where this occurs is through the Campus Events Board (CEB). Many students join CEB because they enjoy event planning. Students receive real-life experience working with talent agents and performers leading up to and the day of some very large-scale events.

“We get to see firsthand how these experiences help them land a cold call, then an interview, followed by jobs that they are so excited about,” adds Moyer. “We find these students often like to stay connected after college to tell us about their experiences and how they use the transferrable skills they gain in their new careers.”

Emma Nair was the president of the CEB Entertainment Committee last year and is in her first job, touring with an artist on the road in Europe. She recently sent her advisor, Dianna Foulke, this text message:

“Planning an album release party with a magician, custom cookies, etc. and so glad I had the CEB experience of communicating with these individuals and learning how to properly and professionally negotiate.”

Through Moyer’s and Foulke’s work, young alumni are also sometimes connected back to current students for professional development opportunities, job leads, and networking.

“It’s a beautiful cycle when we’re able to connect current students with alumni who are in the careers they want,” says Foulke.

While Nair just graduated last year with a bachelor of arts in psychology, some alumni return to campus and stay in touch even decades after their experience at the university. For example, alumnus Ayappa Biddanda (BA American studies and political science ‘00) recently visited campus from Nashville to meet with center staff and students in the newly-created Music Industry Club.

Biddanda enjoys sharing his experience as a student leader and how the transferrable skills he learned through his involvement experiences helped him get his foot in the door at Vanguard and Sugar Hill Records, now part of the Concord Label Group, in Los Angeles upon graduation.

In his own words, “While at the University of Tennessee, I was part of the Cultural Attractions Committee and the Issues Committee booking artists and speakers from around the globe. That gave me a taste that there was a possibility of providing a stage for world-class talent.”

Biddanda currently serves as the senior director of grass roots, video promotion/tour and events marketing for the Concord Label Group in Nashville.

Both Biddanda’s and Nair’s career success demonstrates the launchpad the center serves as for many students. Students grow, develop new skills, discover passions in music, event management, or cultural programming, and those experiences launch their futures.