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Winter 2019 Newsletter

Live, Protect, Explore!

The Report, a newsletter for Recreation, Parks, & Tourism Administration, alumni, students and friends

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By Dr. Bill Hendricks, Department Head

Dr. Bill Hendricks welcomes winter quarter as a time of possibilities

Welcome to the winter 2019 edition of the Experience Industry Management Department newsletter.  Summer and fall quarters passed in warp speed as we strove to provide unique learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom for our students. It is well worth your time to read the articles in this newsletter that highlight many of these activities.

First and foremost, I am pleased to announce that we hired Assistant Professor Andrew Lacanienta, who recently finished his doctorate at Texas A&M University. Although at the early stages of his academic career, Lacanienta is already recognized as an international expert in experience design theory and applications within the industry.

We will put Professor Andrew Lacanienta’s expertise to good use when he joins us winter quarter as the major grows to record levels. September started off with a bang, 345 students, the highest fall quarter enrollment in program history. We are also making our mark across campus as we finish our fourth quarter offering an event planning and experience management minor, thus far attracting 51 students from 17 majors.

Students in the recreation, parks and tourism administration (RPTA) major and their peers in our minor have taken advantage of several summer and fall quarter extracurricular professional development opportunities. Six students honed their research skills with faculty as participants in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). In October, five students and Professor Kevin Lin attended the IMEX America Conference in Las Vegas. Ten students attended the Phocuswright Conference in Los Angeles. A generous donation from George P. Johnson Experience Marketing made both of these excursions possible. In addition, Professor Marni Goldenberg developed and offered an ecotourism class on Catalina Island, immersing 20 students into the sustainability, recreation and tourism industry challenges at this Southern California destination. This course was supported through funds generated from our annual auction and dinner fundraiser, coming up again on Feb. 23.

We are also extremely proud of the students in the EIM Club and our alumni highlighted in this newsletter. In fact, I am delighted to tell you that in September, we were reaccredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions. The accreditation commendations included an “extraordinary” number of substantially exceeded standards and recognition for an innovative curriculum and “pioneering the first experience industry management program.” To top this off, two different online sources have ranked our program as No. 3 in the nation for the study of parks, recreation and leisure studies.

In closing, I hope your holiday season has been one full of memorable moments and transformational experiences with family and friends.

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The Sky's the limit for the Annual Auction and Dinner

By Annelise Wyant  ('19) auction committee member

The beginning of a new year brings another memorable night: the Experience Industry Management (EIM) Department’s annual auction and dinner, set for Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, at the Multi Activity Center on Cal Poly’s campus. This year’s event theme, “Sky’s the Limit,” was chosen to help promote the countless opportunities the department continues to provide its students!

Cal Poly EIM Annual Fundraiser Sky's the LimitIn true Cal Poly Learn by Doing fashion, the auction and dinner is executed from start to finish by EIM students, both majors and minors, who gain valuable hands-on event planning experience. Part-time faculty member Amber Karson advises the committee of students planning the event.

Once the committee was finalized in the spring of 2018, students grouped themselves into sub-committees, including Marketing and Registration; Auction; Logistics; and Finance, Administration and Technology.

Katie Essayan (’20) looks forward to using the skills she learns from the committee into the events industry. “Being on the Marketing and Registration team has taught me how to design a website, attract guests, and develop a user-friendly registration system,” she said. 

The committee this year is committed to enhancing the customer experience by introducing new technology. Toward this end, committee members talked with Chris McBride, director of the Cal Poly Fund, to learn about new fundraising technology available to track donations in real-time during the event.

Although the auction and dinner was originally created to raise funds for student and faculty development, it has grown into a night in which all members of the EIM community, both former and current, come together and celebrate past accomplishments and future opportunities for EIM Department students. The auction and dinner provide the department an opportunity to highlight outstanding alumni, students, parents and industry friends who contribute to the department’s success.

Proceeds from the event benefit EIM students and the department. Money raised from previous auctions and dinners has contributed to student success by: 

  • Supporting student and faculty attendance at conferences, industry meetings, and study abroad opportunities.
  • Hosting renowned executives, who can alert students and faculty to the latest industry trends.
  • Implementing the Learn by Doing motto with direct field experience.
  • Offering scholarships for the major’s international study courses.
  • Supporting faculty applied research projects.
  • Supporting ongoing efforts of the Experience Industry Management Advisory Council.
  • Partnering with San Luis Obispo Blues Baseball and Junior Giants youth programs.
  • Providing academic scholarships.
  • Purchasing computer software and analytics programs to enhance student learning.
  • Developing partnerships with international universities in our discipline.

Save the date and support the EIM Department’s student programs by attending this night of celebration. Learn more about the team behind the auction. Tickets Purchase tickets >> here.

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Summer Undergraduate Research Program:
Offers Students Unique Opportunities

By Erin Ticktin ('20)

The Experience Industry Management Department – through the 2018 Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) gave students unique Learn by Doing opportunities while allowing them to hone their problem-solving skills and advance research endeavors. 

EIM Students in the Summer Undergraduate Research ProgramProfessors Keri Schwab, Kevin Lin and Marni Goldenberg received grants from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) to conduct research through SURP. The program fosters an environment for hands-on learning with a faculty-supervised research project and presentation. Schwab and Lin worked with two EIM students, and Goldenberg worked with two students in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences Department.

Seniors Megan Bonwell and Anna Levine worked with Schwab on a project titled “Specialization in Youth Sport and its Impact on Young Adult Sport or Physically Active Leisure Time Participation. The student researchers interviewed 40 people who had formally participated in youth sports at a high-intensity level. With knowledge gained from RPTA 360: Evaluation and Assessment Methods, Bonwell and Levine were able to code and analyze the data. Bonwell (‘19) said her favorite part was “getting to listen to the stories and experiences of [the] participants.” Overall, she looks forward to the prospect of “working further with Professor Schwab by taking the preliminary results and possibly submitting an article to an academic journal.”

Senior Blair Orlando worked with Professor Lin to research the “Application of Data Analytics in the Experience Industry.” Orlando (‘19) participated in SURP because it was “an opportunity to greatly improve my research skills and expand my professional network.” Research projects like Orlando’s offer the ability to connect with industry professionals to learn more about how their companies utilize data analytics. Orlando’s favorite part of the experience was “working and building a relationship with organizations in the industry and collecting valuable information from them.”

Environmental management and protection (ENVM) majors Isis Howard and Alex Summer Undergraduate Research teamZewiski worked with Goldenberg over the summer. Howard examined female thru-hiker experiences on the Pacific Crest Trail. She conducted in-depth interviews with 23 women who had completed the trail -- a 2,650-mile trail from Mexico to Canada, asking about motivation, lessons learned, issues related to gender and gender identity, their overall experience, and recommendations for other women completing the trail. 

Zewiski and Goldenberg worked on a study titled “An Exploration of the Motivations and Limitations Experienced by Millennial Environmental Educators.” Zewiski also completed in-depth interviews examining why millennials volunteer in the environmental education field. Both studies became senior projects for the students, and they will be submitting papers to publications over the next few months, as well as presenting their research at conferences.

After completing their research, the students compiled the information into an academic poster to present at a research symposium in late August. This gave students the opportunity to present research and learn about other students’ research.

“This program offered me an outlet to show real results about trends in the industry and gain greater knowledge of what this industry has to offer,” Orlando said.

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Spotlight on Alumna Megan Bleichner, Cal Poly EIM Alumna and New Advisory Council Member

By Reva Chadha, (’19)

Alumna Megan Bleichner (Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration, ’00) found her position as director of events at Oracle North America Marketing through her required senior year internship -- some 18 years ago.

Bleichner continues to enjoy her work to this day. “I’ve never been bored,” she said. “So much changes in the tech industry that our jobs are constantly evolving. I’ve traveled extensively throughout North America, seeing and doing things I would never have done without Oracle.”

Bleichner first caught the “event bug” during her time at Cal Poly. She still loves “seeing an event start as nothing and really grow into an awesome experience forMegan Bleichner Cal Poly Alumna Advisory Council Member attendees.” In fact, Bleichner enjoys her work so much that she hopes she is “lucky enough to stay [with Oracle] for another 18 years.”

From her time as an intern 18 years ago to her position as director of events for the past five years, Bleichner has gained extensive knowledge and experience with events, leadership and professionalism – skills taught and emphasized in the EIM curriculum.

This January, Bleichner joined the EIM Advisory Council. Her expansive industry experience and her close relationship with faculty in the department make her a valuable addition to the council.

As an alumna of the program, we are extremely proud of Megan’s many accomplishments and her willingness to give back to the department as a newly appointed advisory council member” Department Head Bill Hendricks said.

And the feelings are mutual. “Cal Poly gave me a career,” Bleichner said. “The EIM Department truly embodies the university’s Learn by Doing philosophy.”

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Ecotourism, Southern California Style

By Reva Chadha, (’19)

In true Learn by Doing fashion, Professor Marni Goldenberg taught RPTA 412: Eco-Tourism and Outdoor Recreation in fall 2018, which included a weekend of hands-on learning on Catalina Island. The course objectives were to give students a “better understanding of the relationship between environmental conservation and a tourism-based economy,” Goldenberg said. 

The course included presentations by the Catalina Island Conservancy about the Students travel to Catalina to learn about Ecotourismeconomic sustainability of the island and on becoming a level 1 naturalist. The weekend also included several community service projects and meetings with the island historian, local professionals, and a park ranger. Activities included hiking, kayaking and camping. 

Christina Rathberger (‘20), an exchange student from Munich, Germany, said the trip reinforced her decision to choose this major. “Everyone was passionate about experiencing this beautiful Island, getting to know the locals, being in nature, and learning about issues and strategies in terms of eco-tourism,” Rathberger said. “Everyone was so grateful for the opportunity to go on the trip.”

According to Brett Walsh (‘20), “This course offered a site visit to a place that faces real-world issues and offers experiences that we study in our recreation, parks and tourism administration (RPTA) classes. Being able to travel there gave us perspectives that we could not have understood completely,” in class. 

Both students noted the unique aspects of ecotourism and outdoor recreation that related directly to Catalina Island and how dynamic professionals in the experience industry must be, depending on the environment they are in. 

“Being able to spend a weekend with other RPTA students was memorable because we were able to connect and discuss, in a fun way, serious issues that our industry is involved in,” Walsh added. 

Rathberger thought that “talking to people who were born and raised on Catalina Island and getting insights into their opinions on Island life,” was most memorable. She said she will look back on fond memories of “jamming together during sunset and being thankful for classmates turning into friends.”

In an industry that deeply values relationships and personal connections, the trip was a great bonding experience for the students themselves and for the students and the Catalina Island community. The educational and fun course resulted in a unique Learn by Doing experience and produced memories that will last a lifetime. 

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Cal Poly Experience Industry Management Welcomes New Faculty Member in Experience Design and Structured Experiences

The Experience Industry Management Department welcomed new faculty member  Andrew Lacanienta to the faculty winter quarter.

Prior to his arrival at Cal Poly, Lacanienta taught two courses at Texas A&M University: Introduction to Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences and Introduction to Programming and Event Design.

“I absolutely love teaching,” he said. “Being in the classroom and guiding students on learning adventures is my passion."

Born and raised in Utah, Lacanienta completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in experience industry management and youth and family recreation at Brigham Young University, before earning his doctorate at Texas A&M University.

“Andrew is an extraordinary addition to our program and team of faculty,” Professor and Department Head Bill Hendricks said. “Beginning winter quarter, he will teach the core RPTA 210 course: Experience Program Design, combining his unique blend of research and experience design with his solid academic credentials to expand our dynamic student learning environment.”

Lacanienta is actively involved with The College of Extraordinary Experiences an experience design conference in Czocha, Poland, where attendees can find him dressed in a wizard’s robe, sneaking through secret passages, and designing crazy experiences for participants.  

His research interests revolve around designing memorable experiences for guests and participants of all types through storytelling, collaborative engagement, and creating new, immersive worlds. He studies structured experiences in tourism, event, youth development and business settings.

Stop by and welcome Professor Lacanienta to campus. His office is located in Room 252 in the Agricultural Sciences Building (No. 11).  His office hours winter quarter are 12:10 - 2 p.m. Tuesday, and 11:10 a.m. - 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, and Thursday.

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EIM Students Go 'Travel Techie' at the Phocuswright Conference  

The recent Phocuswright Conference, held in Los Angeles, provided nine EIM students, one event planning and experience management minor, and Department Head Bill Hendricks the opportunity to learn firsthand about the intersection between travel and technology.

Students travel to tech prof conferenceHendricks, a program leader in the CSU Hospitality and Tourism Alliance, arranged for the students to attend the conference, held in November 2018. They joined students from CSU Northridge and San Diego State University.

Phocuswright is a research authority that offers clients credible research and data analytics about the travel, technology industries. The conference features multiple information sessions emphasizing current and emerging technologies in the field. The students attended these technology focused sessions throughout the conference.

Student attendance also provided volunteer services. This was a unique experience because students could see the front and back side of the event. They wore many Students travel to tech prof conferencehats as they worked at the event. They checked in attendees   and printed their badges at the reception desk, answered questions and provided information at various service desks throughout the conference center. “They helped with signage and with scanning attendees into specific events for counting purposes,” EIM student Megan Reissig (‘19) said. She was able to “watch some ‘Shark Tank’-style marketing” pitches for new travel technology products and companies, giving her the chance to compare professional pitches to those she has done in class.

This large-scale conference afforded students an opportunity to directly apply Learn by Doing and to hear how technology is shaping the travel industry. Reissig said her biggest takeaway was learning “how important communication is within an entire team during an event.” 

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Spotlight on Alumna Anthonia Edgren

Alumna Anthonia (Toni) Edgren (Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration, ’13; M.A., Education, ’16) has put her passion for event planning, relationship building and organizational leadership to work through a variety of roles at Cal Poly.

After spending several years working in Parent and Family Programs and the Commencement Office, planning Cal Poly’s large-scale events, she now is director of development for Student Affairs, a role that blends the skills and knowledge she learned as a student with her professional experience serving Cal Poly constituents. In her role as director of development, Edgren oversees all fundraising efforts for the Student Affairs division, which supports student success outside the classroom. Funds support such programs as Career Services, the Disability Resource Center, Veterans’ Success Center, Orientation Programs, and Student Clubs and Organizations. As a one-person team, she has found success by relying on the networking, relationship building, and organizational skills she learned in the RPTA program.

Alumna spotlight Anthonia EdgrenEdgren especially enjoys traveling throughout California to visit with Cal Poly Proud alumni, parents, supporters and donors. “There is an incredible sense of pride that exists among our alumni and supporters, and there are some really amazing and inspiring Cal Poly stories out there,” she said. “I feel very lucky to have a position that allows me to connect with the greater Cal Poly community and hear how Cal Poly has impacted people’s lives.”

Edgren is also grateful that her job fulfills something she has always valued: the opportunity to give back. “Fundraising can be challenging, but I love the fact that I get to raise funds for programs that keep students both academically and personally successful at Cal Poly,” she said. “Some of the donations we receive are truly transformational and can change the path for a student, especially those gifts that help veterans and first-generation students and that address housing and food insecurity and mental health issues. I feel very privileged to be in a position where I can support our students in this way.”

In addition to her full-time job, Edgren has returned to the place she loves: the classroom. For over a year, she has been teaching RPTA 101: Introduction to Recreation, Parks and Tourism and RPTA 257: Leadership and Diverse. She enjoys connecting with students firsthand. “The RPTA/experience industry management (EIM) students never cease to impress me,” Edgren said. “They are smart, passionate, caring, entrepreneurial, creative and professional individuals who I know will go out into the world and make an impact.”

She advises  students to “sample the buffet” of experiences Cal Poly has to offer. “I tell my students to take risks, try different jobs or volunteer opportunities in the field. It’s the only way you can figure out what you’re truly passionate about.”

Edgren hopes to continue working in higher education, teaching for the EIM Department, and growing her wedding planning business, Sage and Lace Occasions. Reflecting on her experience with RPTA, she said, “If it weren't for the amazing faculty and the Learn by Doing experiences they afforded us, I wouldn't be where I am today, with the confidence to take on new challenges and experiences head on.”

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Experience Industry Management Club Update

By Reva Chadha, (’19)

The Experience Industry Management Club, or EIM Club, is open to all students Experience Industry Management Club interested in the experience industries, whether their interest is in hospitality, tourism, sport management, recreation, outdoor leadership, destination marketing or event planning. The club meets every other week and brings in industry professionals to speak about their journeys and experiences, offer advice for students, and provide information about volunteer, internship or job opportunities. Fall quarter speakers included the general manager of the Cliffs Resort; a co-founder of Shabang Music Festival; last years’ EIM Club president, who is now assistant general manager of the SLO Blues Collegiate Baseball Team; a local wedding planner, and more.

Experience Industry Management Club The club holds socials throughout the quarter to facilitate bonding and new friendships. The EIM Club provides a strong support group to fellow students in the small, tight-knit department. One recent social to Avila Valley Barn, allowed students to feed goats, walk around a pumpkin patch, and immerse themselves in the spirit of fall. “It was a blast,” said EIM Club Vice President Taylor Eagan. 

To help EIM students fulfill their required 1,000 hours of volunteer service before graduation, the EIM Club participates in volunteer opportunities around San Luis Experience Industry Management Club Obispo. This past fall quarter, students volunteered at the Morro Bay Harbor Festival, an event run by an EIM student and coordinated by the club president and vice president. The club also volunteered with Cal Poly Parent and Family Programs during Mustang Family Weekend.

The EIM Club encourages students from every concentration and class year to be part of the club. “We attempt to make every meeting a fun and valuable experience by bringing in speakers that we feel the students will learn from,” said club President Reva Chada. “We aim to keep it casual and lighthearted with snacks and group games.

“We are thankful for the support we have had from students, speakers, and our awesome faculty advisor,  Professor Marni Goldenberg,” Chada continued.” We are excited for what is to come!”

Follow the club’s instagram @EIMclub to see what the club is up to!  

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Rho Phi Lambda's Career Fair

Experience Industry Management Career Fair

Students will be able to explore career and internship opportunities at the Experience Industry Management Career Fair, set for Wednesday, Jan. 30.

The event is hosted by Rho Phi Lambda, EIM’s professional honors society, with student Kevin Rubow (’19) directing this year’s event.  “The regular [Cal Poly] career fair is not what we are looking for as EIM students,” Rubow said. “It’s too big. This one is tailored to our needs.”

Rho Phi Lambda Vice President Blair Orlando (’19) added, "I took full advantage of this EIM-focused career fair planning experience! It felt great to contribute to such a worthy event for students seeking full-time career positions, internships or their first job experience. As a fraternity, Rho Phi Lambda was happy with the success of the career fair, and we know it will grow bigger and better every year."


 • Allegretto Vineyard Resort

 • Chumash Casino Resort

 • City of San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation

 • EVO Events Group

 • Field to Table Catering and Events

 • Launch, Inc.

 • San Francisco Giants Community Foundation

 • San Luis Obispo Baseball Alliance Foundation (the SLO Blues)

 • Santa Margarita Adventures

 • Santa Maria Elks Rodeo and Parade

 • The Cliffs Hotel Resort

 • Thousand Trails Campground and RV Resort

 • UCSB Family Vacation Center

As the EIM major requires extensive industry experience prior to and including the senior internship, career fairs provide an essential opportunity for students to network with professionals and to research career possibilities. Finding an internship as part of a degree requirement can produce some anxiety in students.

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Students, Professor Lin Attend IMEX America Conference in Las Vegas

By Erin Ticktin, (’19)

In October 2018, five experience industry management (EIM) seniors and Professor Kevin Lin traveled to the Future Leaders Forum at the IMEX America Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. IMEX America is an international exhibition for incentive travel, meetings and events and runs the largest hosted buyer program in the world. TheEIM Students travel to IMEX Professional conference conference included a large trade show featuring various hotels; destination marketing organizations; destination management companies; CVENT, a leading cloud-based event management platform; Disney, MPI Meeting Planners International, and more event and hospitality companies.

The special Future Leaders Forum attracted students from around the world studying the experience industry. Attendees explored the trade show floor and heard presentations from industry professionals. This forum offered students the ability to network with other students and industry professionals.

This conference proved eye-opening for the students, especially for those who had never been to such a large conference. Students could apply classroom lessons to analyze behind-the-scenes activities at the conference. “The conference changed my point of view about how much goes into the conference, meeting and convention industry,” said Joanne Lodato (’18).

This conference provided the students with direct exposure to the meeting and convention industry, and in one of the largest event cities in the United States.

“I was so grateful for the opportunity to attend IMEX America,” Hannah Chaput (‘18) said. “I was able to network, meet leading industry CEOs and professionals, and hear incredible speakers.” Breakout sessions allowed the students to ask questions at roundtable discussions, connect one-on-one with other students, and tour the trade show floor. Overall, it provided the students with an opportunity to network, learn and grow professionally.

The EIM faculty and students are grateful for the generous donation from George P. Johnson Experience Marketing that funded this unique student professional development opportunity.

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Meet the Staff for "The Report" Winter 2019 Newsletter

Staff for "The Report" are nominated by EIM faculty for demonstrating excellent writing skills in RPTA classes. Student writers then coordinate with the editor and faculty advisor Professor Keri Schwab to develop and write articles.​



Reva Chada (‘20) is a 3rd year EIM student who is doing an Individual-Course of study concentration and working towards a minor in Child Development. EIM has helped her find her place at Cal Poly. She loves that EIM is a tight-knit group within the larger university and the department has become her home away from home while at Cal Poly. 






Erin Ticktin ('19) 

Erin is a 4th year EIM student with a double concentration in Hospitality/Tourism Management and Event Planning.  She loves all the opportunities the EIM Department has provided her to network with industry professionals. Next quarter she will be interning with Cal Poly’s Parent & Family Programs and Commencement. 





Anelise Wyant ('20)  

Anelise is a 3rd year EIM student from Orangevale, California. She is doing an Individual Course of Study concentration and also perusing a minor in photography. Her favorite thing about EIM are all the first-hand experiences she gets in classes. In her free time, she likes to take film photographs or go to concerts. 




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