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Real-life experience is a part of the curriculum at UW-Eau Claire

| Chelsea Wisner

Photo caption: Students in the communication and journalism course CJ 251: Strategic Event Planning helped make GEEKcon successful with their thoughtful planning and skillful execution.

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is home to many student-run events, including GEEKcon. The event is planned and executed by students in CJ 351: Strategic Event Planning, along with the help of volunteers. This year's event, held Dec. 2 in Davies Center, was incredibly successful, doubling their number of attendees to more than 1,600. 

Founded in 2017 by Rob Mattison, an audiovisual technician in Learning and Technology Services, GEEKcon is an event that brings together pop culture and “nerdy” hobbies, welcoming you no matter your age or experience level. Offering impressive Lego displays and informative panels, the event celebrates the passions often deemed geeky. Attendees could participate in cosplay competitions, shop from more than 75 vendors, and even play a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

An onlooker and two children look at a Lego display table.
No lack of imagination

There were over 40 tables of Lego displays to peruse at the event!

The event was integrated into the strategic event planning course in 2018. Dr. Nicole Schultz, professor of communication and journalism, who has been teaching the course since 2017, has witnessed how hands-on learning gives students the confidence needed to step into the role of event planner.  

“Seeing the students’ joy in learning this and smiling all day, putting out fires the week-/day-of with professionalism, confidence and commitment, and so much more, puts me in awe.” 

Students in the class come from a variety of majors and join one of the four event-planning teams: publicity and promotion; hospitality; programming and recruitment; and specialty. They’re involved in the event-planning process from start to finish, reaching out to sponsors, managing vendor communication, organizing the event layout and getting vendors settled in their spaces. 

Marissa Day is a sophomore at UW-Eau Claire majoring in journalism and Spanish. She worked as the assistant director of programming and recruitment throughout the semester.  

“I’ve learned a lot about working with other people (vendors, community clients, classmates/team members) in a busy, collaborative environment. It’s been amazing to see the excitement everyone brings to class every day,” Day says. “I feel confident in my ability to take on a leadership role and guide others, and I know that I’ll be able to take all the collaboration, creativity, coordination and interpersonal skills I’ve learned from this class with me into my future career.” 

GEEKcon visitors look at art for sale. A Mandalorian cosplay is visible in the background.
Costumes and art on display

Attendees could shop at a variety of vendor booths, including art, comics, knitted creations and cosplay materials.

Senior Katie Kleiman-Lee, an organizational communications major, was a member of the executive team and producer of the event.  

“My favorite part about this role is the ability to take on more of a student leadership position while still being involved in multiple different planning opportunities. The ability to brainstorm, design and execute ideas not only in a theoretical way but with a hands-on approach. This gives students and me the ability to apply concepts that we learn in class in a real-world event.” 

You can learn more about the event by visiting the GEEKcon website