E is for Event Planner: Employees “making it happen” at WKU

Rachel Goodman laughs while double checking preparations for a luncheon in advance of a campus award ceremony for the environmental education department outside Ransdell Hall on Tuesday, September 27, 2011. Goodman, the assistant director of campus and community events, has been planning events on and around WKU’s campus for the past eleven years. “We get a flavor of every department on campus,” Goodman said. “So we love that. All the different campus personalities are great.”

Natalie West

If you have ever participated in hip-hop cardio in the Preston Center, then chances are you’ve seen Rachel Goodman.

Goodman used to instruct the cardio classes but is more widely known for her 11 years of work as the assistant director of Campus and Community Events at WKU, where she organizes many of the events that students regularly attend.

Goodman said she and her coworkers deal with all events from speakers to luncheons to concerts to camps – and even weddings.

“Brides are a unique market. Some don’t know what they want and some do,” she said. “But you have to stay a step ahead of them.”

Because of the high-paced nature of her work, Goodman said that she constantly needs to stay ahead because she is always busy and working with many different people.

“Every department that is having an event has needs,” she said. “We help think through the odds and ends of an event.”

Goodman and the planning staff are constantly finding venues, supplying chairs and tables or even working with lighting to ensure that the event runs smoothly.

Goodman said the team’s motto is, no matter what, “We make it happen.”

Though Goodman has worked on events involving celebrities such as Willie Nelson or Ron White, she said her favorite event that the team coordinated occurred in 2008 preceding the presidential election.

In collaboration with the communication and political science departments, the planning staff decided to promote voting among the students.

“We found and bought an old, retro bus and had freshmen paint various political statements on it,” Goodman said. “It had a sort of throwback theme.”

The inside of the bus, she said, contained a small set of archives from the Kentucky Museum.

“It was like a traveling display of voting from the past,” she said.

Being an event planner is well-suited for Goodman. She has always liked marketing and working with people. Even when there is a glitch in the event, she said everyone comes together to make the event work.

“You need to be able to stay calm under pressure and to react with a smile on your face,” she said.

Goodman said that whenever something goes wrong there is a lot of shifting behind the scenes. When that happens, the balance between rushing around and staying calm must be found.

“You never want your guests to know you’re panicked,” she said. “Always smile.”

Staying organized is another skill that Goodman said an event planner must posses.

“You must be detail-oriented and super inquisitive,” she said. “You need to ask the client the right questions.”

Bryant Blodgett, an event coordinator and Goodman’s coworker, agreed that an event planner needs to be prepared.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that organization is huge,” he said.

Because they are always on the move, Blodgett said that keeping a checklist is a good idea.

“You need a list of everything you need, everything that could happen,” he said. “You can get caught up in the bigger idea, but you need to be able to go back for the details.”

Fort Wayne, Ind., junior Kelsey Harris is hoping to enter into this fast-paced career of event planning.

Harris said she changed her major when she heard event planning was offered and so far she loves the program.

Harris said she has learned a lot in her classes so far and that the program has allowed her to meet many different people and to hear about various job opportunities.

“I’d like to work for a wedding planning company and then eventually own my own,” she said. “It would definitely be interesting.”

Goodman agreed that the job is exciting, saying, “Every day is totally different, and you definitely never get bored.”

An event planner should be comfortable working behind the scenes and needs to be gratified by the small details coming together for the big picture, Goodman said.

But her greatest satisfaction comes from the clients.

“If the people are happy,” she said, “we are happy.”