Select students from the Future Professional Event Planners (FPEP) student club housed in the Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management department (RHTM) and their advisor, Stefanie Benjamin, volunteered at AUDACITY Fest in Memphis, TN on Saturday, September 28th. The festival prides itself on having something for every type of traveler with several elements ranging from panels, vendors, and on-site sponsorship experiences that represented six verticals of travel: culinary, self-care, immersive, adventure, budget, luxury. This experiential learning allowed for students to assist with social media to keeping time for the panelists with topics ranging from volunteering abroad, Black and Burning Man, queer travel, travel & culinary, studying abroad, returning home, and mental health and travel. For instance, President of FPEP, Abbey Parlier, felt that:
This weekend was a chance for us students to get hands-on experience in event production. We got the opportunity to network with professionals in the tourism and event planning industry. I am so thankful Benjamin and the RHTM department were able to afford us this awesome experience.
This festival, created by Nomadness Travel Tribe Founder, Evita Robinson, focused on “Black and Brown travelers from around the world, to build ideas, meet traveler influencers, and experience parts of the world through on site activations” (Audacity, 2019) and unpacked people of color’s experiences with intimate dialogue around their experiences within travel and tourism:
“Going to Audacity fest was a great experience where I was able to learn many things. In volunteering at this conference, it put in perspective what it felt like to be a minority which is something, especially on this campus, that I, as a White person, never experienced. This festival was eye opening and gave me the opportunity to be more knowledgeable about tourism travel.” Ellisha Thomas, RHTM student.
Students were able to hear stories and experiences of people of color that they might not have personally experienced. It was a way to not only learn logistical elements of festival management, but more importantly, the challenges of traveling as a person of color.
“Audacity festival was a learning experience in many ways, we got to see the working of a festival and what worked and what didn’t work. My favorite part was getting to listen to the panels and hear things from a different perspective that I have never experienced myself.” Elizabeth Richmond, RHTM Student
With these experiences, students went outside their comfort zones and challenged their ways of thinking. This opportunity allowed them to network with travel and tourism industry leaders and explore opportunities that they may not have realized were available in the tourism sector.
“Volunteering helped to open my mind on how not everyone is awarded the same opportunity but through hard work, they are able to afford the luxuries and be able to see the world and all it has to offer.” Jalan Cooper, RHTM Student