Harrisburg communications students learn the ropes of event planning

Closeup photo of hands holding Uno cards

Communications students in Amy Sauertieg’s event planning class at Penn State Harrisburg recently held a game night fundraiser to benefit the campus food pantry. Having students plan and execute a real fundraiser as part of the course gives them a more well-rounded experience, she said.

Credit: Sharon Siegfried

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Communications students at Penn State Harrisburg from Amy Sauertieg’s event planning class dashed around the events room in the campus’ Capital Union Building on April 12, arranging tables and chairs, lining up snacks, and discussing where to set up cornhole boards and musical chairs.

“Let’s keep an eye on the time, it’s 5:40!” called out fourth-year student Aleeza Zahid, amid shouted updates on pizza delivery and calls to the college’s Information Technology Services for help with the projector system.

At 6 p.m., fellow students began trickling in for “Who’s Got Game?,” the game night fundraiser Sauertieg’s class spent the spring semester planning and executing as a real-life experience for the course.

“The great thing about us is we work well under pressure,” said fourth-year student Hannah Collier, as the event kicked off. “I think it’s exciting to see all of our work pay off. This is like the fruit of our labor. And it’s for a good cause.”

Sauertieg, assistant teaching professor of communications at Penn State Harrisburg, added the hands-on exercise to the course several years ago.

Students complete assignments in which they plan hypothetical events, detailing budgets and writing sponsorship proposals, for example. But having them plan and execute a real fundraiser as part of the course gives them a more well-rounded experience, she said.

“They’re getting the theoretical and they’re getting the practical application,” Sauertieg said.

Students are responsible for the event start to finish – for everything from conceiving the idea and deciding a date and location to promoting and running the event. After, they complete an analysis of how it went.

“At first, there was so much we wanted to do,” Zahid said, noting that part of the challenge was prioritizing and narrowing their ideas.

This year, students chose to hold a pay-to-play game night fundraiser to benefit the WE cARE Food Pantry on campus. In addition to handling the on-campus logistics, students designed flyers and T-shirts, and called and visited local businesses to solicit prizes and food.

Several students said it’s beneficial to be able to apply what they learn in class.

“It’s always great to have hands-on experience,” said graduate student Shane Garcia, as he worked to set up screens to play slides during the event. “This is really nitty-gritty stuff that’s going to help us a lot.”

Collier said the activity is a good resume-builder.

“It’s not all fun and games. There’s so much strategic planning that goes into it,” she said. “It’s a team effort.”

The class also visited the campus food pantry to learn more about their beneficiary organization. Ameerah Lawal, a fourth-year student, said the visit helped put their project into perspective.

“The fact that we’re helping people just like us – Penn State students working together to help Penn State students – is a really good thing,” Lawal said.

Sauertieg said there’s a focus on exposing communications students to what real jobs will be like.

“I really feel like there’s nothing better than this for learning,” she said, as she watched the event unfold.

In total, the game night raised $225 for the WE cARE Food Pantry. The pantry estimates that a $1 donation allows them to purchase 5-10 pounds of food from the Central PA Food Bank. More information on the WE cARE Food Pantry can be found on the pantry website.