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Event management program named 'best in the world'


Recreation, parks and leisure services administration faculty member Tim Otteman accepts the Gold Pinnacle Award for Best Event Management Bachelor's Degree on Sept. 25 at the International Festivals and Events Association conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. (Courtesy Photo | Tim Otteman)

Central Michigan University's event management program was honored by the International Festivals and Events Association with the Gold Pinnacle Award for Best Event Management Bachelor’s Degree.

This international award, which was presented on Sept. 25, evaluated the program with criteria such as real-world experience, alumni success, enrollment and graduation numbers, staff-to-student ratio, the cost of tuition and available financial assistance.

This was the program’s first time applying for the award, according to recreation, parks and leisure services administration faculty member Tim Otteman. Since the program had just received its accreditation report, Otteman said the program had all the answers for the application readily available. The process took about a month, but Otteman plans to keep applying for the award.

Otteman said that beside being one of the largest programs in the country, he believes the program excels at providing students with hands-on experience.

“We don’t teach in our program with a number 2 pencil and a Scantron sheet. We teach by 'here’s the concept, here’s the theory and now let’s figure out a way to practically apply it and give you a real-life hands-on (experience),'” Otteman said. 

To gain this real world experience, certain classes in the program require students to put their planning skills to the test.

Through her recreation, parks and leisure administration (RPL) classes, Bay City junior Kristen Satkowiak has planned multiple events with her classmates, including a silent disco DJ battle sponsored by Prime Music Festival and the 10th annual national Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament. She raised over $17,000 to host the DJ battle through sponsorships, donations and ticket sales. 

“I can already appreciate the personal and professional skill sets I have gained in my time in this program including marketing, producing budgets, volunteer management and sponsorship experience,” Satkowiak said.

The award also measures the success of alumni. In an effort to show students where alumni landed after their time at CMU, Otteman spent spring break on a 10-day trip across the country to visit alumni in nine different cities. 

Otteman made a Facebook post asking alumni if they had any interesting jobs. He received 41 responses from 15 states in 24 hours.

“I woke up in literally a dream and said I kind of want to be taught by the people I taught,” Otteman said. 

In his "Best of the Best Recreation and Event Management Industry Tour", Otteman displayed alumni working at places like the Big Machine Label Group in Tennessee, the Rainbow Room in New York and many others. 

For Otteman, this award holds value when it comes to recruiting students into the program. The title brings the event management program to the forefront by highlighting its success. 

This award also allows students and alumni to feel pride knowing that the program is considered the best in the world. 

“Everyone in the program is passionate about the students, the work, and the opportunities that are presented to us,” Cedar Spring junior Kaitlyn Coons said. “I was truly honored that our hard work as students is being recognized on an international level because of the opportunities our university and our faculty members give us.”