Challenging times can bring unexpected learning opportunities, as Hospitality Management instructor Brad Boisvert and his colleagues found out when the pandemic hit in March and all student showcase events were either cancelled or postponed indefinitely.
“No one could have predicted that, there’s no textbook in the hospitality management field about how to put on events during a pandemic,” he says. “But we took a deep breath, regrouped and worked with the students to transition to virtual events, and it’s been fantastic how everyone has jumped on board to learn new skills and approaches.”
This term, students in Boisvert’s Event Management 286 class are leading the way with unique virtual fundraisers that both help them learn new skills and support community partners.
The next event, coming up on Dec. 5, is a virtual “Day in Santa’s Workshop” and will feature live music, an immersive Christmas art experience, yummy baking and a silent auction. All proceeds support Providence Farm — a unique therapeutic community farm in the Cowichan Valley that provides a variety of innovative programs for individuals with mental health, brain injury, age-related illness, and developmental challenges.
“Social responsibility and giving back is embedded in all of our courses,” explains Boisvert, who notes that working collaboratively is the best way for all of us to get through the pandemic. “We’re helping the community who is helping us, who’ve come to our restaurants and supported our programs. Now more than ever, it’s an uncertain time for many people so we’re focussing on what we can do to help the community.”
For the students, Boisvert is teaching them the right way to approach business.
“When they go out in the industry and become event managers, we’re hoping that they have that takeaway that integrating yourself in the community is the best way of doing business,” he says. “Supporting where you live and where you work is a ‘win-win’ for everybody. You’ve got to give back, and to support local.”
The virtual approach this term is opening up new partnerships and learning opportunities for the students that didn’t exist in previous years.
“Our previous face-to-face events have all been focussed on Victoria, and this time our client is located in the Cowichan Valley which allows us to work with new partners, and to reach new people online,” says Boisvert. “Our students have embraced taking a challenge and turning it into an opportunity, knowing that throughout their career they’ll need to think creativity and adapt to whatever comes their way.”
As a team lead, second year Hospitality Management student Taylor Reynolds is adapting to this ever changing environment during this pandemic, while learning the technical aspect of hosting a live online event.
She believes that a virtual “Day in Santa’s Workshop” will harness the true spirit of the Christmas season at a time when many families and friends need to remain physically apart.
“Typically, during this time, families would be going to see Santa Claus at the mall and visiting with family and friends making Christmas memories,” she says. “This event gives them a chance to see Santa virtually and have some fun with painting Christmas crafts and decorating Christmas cookies, all from the comfort of their own home! To help raise funds for our wonderful partner Providence Farm, we have also set up a silent auction with great prizes.”
“A Day In Santa’s Workshop” takes place on Saturday, Dec. 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets range between $25 to $65, depending on the choice of activities. For more information, please visit the students’ Eventbrite page. (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-day-in-santas-workshop-tickets-127474635065)
Ivan Watson is a marketing and communications strategist with Camosun College.