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April 2024 Experience Industry Management Newsletter

Attention Alumni and Industry Partners: We need you on Saturday, April 27

Want to pass your knowledge on to the next generation of Experience Industry Management (EIM) emerging professionals? Hoping to support student research, travel and scholarships?

Join us on Saturday, April 27 for a full day of networking, outdoor adventure, food, drinks and fun. The students on the EIM Fundraising Committee have planned three amazing events to help connect the EIM community and raise some money for the
department. Take a look at the events and plan to join us for the day on April 27!

Eagle Rock Guided Nature Hike – Associate Professor Keri Schwab and Professor Marni Goldenberg will lead a guided nature hike at the Eagle Rock Loop near Dairy Creek Golf Course from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Explore local flora and fauna, learn the meaning behind the “leave no trace” motto and see the beautiful Seven Sisters Peaks.

Swing Time Golf Challenge – Network with faculty, industry partners and students while testing your golf skills from 10 a.m. to noon. Whether you want to challenge Professor Brian Greenwood and Interim Department Head Kevin Lin to a longest drive competition, relax and have fun with friends or make some new industry connections, we hope to see you at Swing Time.

Auction Celebration – The annual EIM Auction Celebration takes place at 5 p.m. at Swanson Center of Effort Conference Hall in the JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture. Don’t miss the chance to support students while bidding on amazing auction lots like four VIP tickets to a Live Nation Concert, a three-night stay at the Allegretto Resort with vineyard tour and tastings at CAB Collective wineries or a Great Pyrenees puppy.

Reserve your spot for the hike, Swing Time and the Auction Celebration today!

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Students and Faculty Attend the California Park and Recreation Society Conference and Expo

Students and faculty attended the California Park and Recreation Society (CPRS) Conference and Expo in Palm Springs, California, from April 3-6. The CPRS Conference is a state-wide event that addresses innovations and challenges in the parks and recreation field, as well as providing numerous networking opportunities.

This year, second-year recreation, parks and tourism administration major Aja Tsutsumi had the chance to compete and present her research in the inaugural student research competition – winning for the best presentation.

Tsutsumi works as a lab assistant for Assistant Professor Sandy Shen in the Experience Innovation Lab. Her research focuses on the effectiveness of using virtual reality to introduce sustainability messaging in hotel experiences, with the goal of testing how this affects customer’s knowledge, brand perception and intention to visit destinations. Tsutsumi  said that she hopes her research in sustainability practices in the hospitality industry will encourage people to learn about the sustainability practices of hotels and continue to practice them during their stay.

I believe that the use of cutting-edge technology like the Tobii Pro eye trackers that we are using for our research, as well as the VR aspect of our project, contributed to my success in the competition,” she said. In addition to winning the student competition, some of the key highlights from her experience at the conference included connecting with Cal Poly alumni. The EIM Department supports student travel to such events as a way to further networking opportunities for students with professionals and as a way to build connections with varoius companies in the industry. Tsutsumi added, “Offering research opportunities to undergraduate students is super important because I think that research is something that often gets overlooked, especially in an industry that isn’t STEM based. However, it is a critical part of all the decisions that are made in the experience industry.”

Experience Industry Management Advisory Council Member Highlight: Ryan Becker of Visit California

Ryan Becker (Journalism, ‘00) grew up in Stockton, California and is the vice president of communications at Visit California, a nonprofit dedicated to developing and maintaining the global marketing program that promote California as a tourism destination.

A Cal Poly alumnus, Becker later earned a master’s in business administration from Sacramento State. He joined the department’s advisory council to further promote Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy, having experienced it himself as a student at Cal Poly while acting as the student representative on the Journalism Department's advisory council. “When I was offered the opportunity to serve on the EIM Advisory Council, I jumped. I hope I can help current and future students in the same way that so many people at Cal Poly and the broader alumni network have helped me,” said Becker.

Becker joined the industry because he believes in the transformative power of travel and hospitality. He emphasized that not only is it an incredible economic engine for communities large and small, but it also connects people on a human level. “This industry can be a bulwark against the polarization and pessimism of today's world. Plus, it's tons of fun — my job has taken me around the world, and every day is a new challenge,” he said. His biggest advice for students would be: “Don't be too proud to start small, and don't be too selective. Career paths are rarely predictable or linear — try something you think might be interesting, even if the money or geography isn't exactly perfect. You'll learn something and it will prepare you for your next step.”

What is your most memorable moment in the industry?

Producing a 1,000-person charitable event to benefit victims of the 2017 wine country wildfires. We built a 500-foot table in a vineyard on the Napa-Sonoma County line, featuring dozens of celebrity chefs, first responders and more. Not only did we raise relief funds, but we shined a spotlight on the area to welcome visitors back — a sorely needed injection of visitor spending in a community that depends on the travel industry.

What is the biggest compliment you can give someone?

There's nobody else I'd rather be in the trenches with than you.

Who do you admire the most and why?

My grandfather. He had to start working before he even finished high school and he still managed to build a great life for his family. He was self-taught in everything he did. He showed me that effort is the only thing you can control in life.

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Empowering the Future of Experience Innovation

At the forefront of innovation and education lies the Experience Innovation Lab at Cal Poly which was generously funded and co-envisioned by George P. Johnson — this dynamic space is where creativity meets cutting-edge technology and research. We are excited to announce the opening of the lab, run by Assistant Professor Sandy Chen, and invite you to help support the Learn by Doing work being done there.

The Experience Innovation Lab serves as a hub for collaboration between students, professionals and organizations. To help make these collaborations possible, two donors have stepped up to create an endowment to support the lab:  Visit SLO CAL and the Seawell Family.

"Supporting the Learn by Doing work being done by students in the lab is crucial for nurturing the next generation of industry leaders. Our family is excited to be a part of the innovation being done, empowering Experience Industry Management students like our son to create, deliver and measure extraordinary experiences. We hope other families and industry groups will join us,” said Nicole Seawell, parent and donor to the lab.

Visit SLO CAL also made a gift, recognizing the need to support and play a role in the development and future success of young people and the tourism and hospitality industry in the region.

The lab is not just another research facility, it is the gateway to unlocking the full potential of the experience economy. Here, students engage in real-world projects, collaborating with industry partners to tackle complex challenges within the experience industry. We are testing out new strategies around events and hospitality, building prototypes to take brand experience booth designs to the next level and incorporating artificial intelligence and technology like never before.

As a thank you, we have honored these and future donors with a plaque in the lab. To see the lab, support the work being done and get your own name or business listed, please contact Director of Development Erica Nordby at or 805-305-4567.

With your help, we can provide students with invaluable hands-on experiences that prepare them for success in the ever-evolving experience industry.

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How to give to the Experience Industry Management Department?

Give back now

How do I give to Cal Poly's Experience Industry Management Department and the Recreation, Parks, & Tourism Administration Program?

Learn more

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