University of Findlay business students have unique opportunities to get involved in the professional world before they graduate. Through programs and organizations like Dana Scholars, Innovative Leadership Challenge, Future Leaders Initiative, and The Oiler 10, students gain valuable real-world experiences in the field of business that give them an edge when it comes to landing internships and jobs.
Natalie Swift ’19 found the experiences she had as a business student set her up for success in her career. As a student she participated in Dana Scholars, the Innovative Leadership Challenge, and The Oiler 10 among other activities. The skills she learned in these programs led to a fun and dynamic internship at the Country Music Association (CMA). Currently, Swift is a client support coordinator at Freeman, a global event planning company with 90 offices around the world that specializes in tradeshow and exposition shows in large city markets, in Nashville, Tennessee, where she has been able to fulfill her passion of planning events and tradeshows.
As a marketing and event management student, Swift developed an interest in tradeshows after attending the National Grocers Association Tradeshow in Las Vegas, Nevada, through a marketing competition that the University sponsored her and three other students to attend. Her professors saw her light up when she talked about the tradeshow logistics and face-to-face business networking, and they made sure she took classes and participated in activities that gave her those opportunities. “They gave me the resources I needed to continue to learn more about the industry,” she said. Thanks in part to the experiences she gained while at Findlay, she now spends her days producing events that range from aviation expos to fast food company tradeshows.
Building Business Skills with The Oiler 10
One of the on-campus organizations she was involved in was The Oiler 10, a student-led and faculty mentored marketing and consulting agency. Swift was one of the original 10 students in the group and was with the team for two years. She transferred to Findlay from another school her sophomore year, and credits the group with not only helping her hone her business skills, but also finding a community. “When I started, I was shy, nervous, and leaned away from my potential,” Swift said. “After the first year in Oiler 10, I was confident, seeking challenges, and leaning into my potential. I learned to lead and how I can bring my own personality into a leadership position.” While a member of the agency, she had to communicate with out-of-state clients for the first time, which is something she does daily in her current position. She is able to confidently and comfortably interact with clients because of the practice she had.
Along with giving students individual business experiences, The Oiler 10 provides its members with confidence and shapes them into successful, professional individuals. Swift said working in the agency helped her believe in herself because her fellow members and assistant professor of business and The Oiler 10 faculty advisor Scott Grant, Ed.D., had confidence in her abilities. “Once someone sees potential in you that you don’t see in yourself, you start to grow into that potential,” she said. “I was such a different person after those two years that I was able to step out on my own and take leadership positions in other clubs. The Oiler 10 shaped me to make me believe that I could do that and do it well.”
Internship in the Hub of Country Music
Swift graduated in May of 2019 after spending her last semester of undergrad in Nashville as the live events intern at CMA. While interning, she spent between 30 and 35 hours a week at CMA. A majority of Swift’s time was spent preparing for three events that CMA hosts in the spring: Triple Play Awards, Touring Awards, and a Songwriters Show. She communicated with vendors, created centerpieces, selected lounge furniture, assisted with production schedules, and on day of the event, in her own words she would, “execute, execute, execute!” The majority of her time was spent preparing for CMA Fest, held in downtown Nashville. She submitted permits, created a road closures map, worked on signage, organized the supplies, designed green rooms, and assisted the credentials manager to produce over 28,000 credentials for all artists, their crews, families, staff, volunteers, temp hires, and more.
These events led to opportunities to meet country music artists including Thomas Rhett, Luke Combs, Kelsea Ballerini, Lady Antebellum, and Brooks and Dunn. She also got to be backstage at Nissan Stadium during CMA Fest. “To me, the most exciting and unique things were the opportunities to see the behind-the-scenes details of what it takes to put on events like this,” she said. “One day we’re planning events for stars and the next day we’re planning events for the public. CMA gave me so many moments where I just stood there and thought to myself ‘Am I actually here? This is so cool!’”
A Career in Creating Tradeshows
When her internship ended, Swift was hired as a client support coordinator at Freeman, a global event planning company with 90 offices around the world that specializes in tradeshow and exposition shows in large city markets. “CMA is a well-established brand across the country and even across the world, so to have something like that on your resume always makes you stand out,” she said. “Being in Music City, CMA is one of the most well-known companies in the city, so everyone knows who you are talking about and that gives your experience a boost.”
Swift said the number one thing she does in her current position at Freeman is communicate. She is essentially the middle man between what her clients want and what the Freeman operations team can produce. She takes clients’ visions and makes them a reality at the show site. This includes making floor plans for various show sites, quoting signage for the event, creating booth kits for exhibitors that come to shows, visiting sites with clients to get a feel for what they want their show to look like, and being on the show site at hotels and convention centers to make sure that everything she had to communicate comes to fruition. Swift spends half of the week in the office and the other half on site producing events. “Every day really is different and every show is different. One day we’re producing a show for dentists and the next we’re decorating for the Gaylord Opryland Christmas,” she said.
Swift hit the ground running when she graduated thanks to the experiential learning opportunities she had at Findlay. While in school, she not only learned the skills she needed to be successful, but she was able to practice them as an Oiler 10 member.
Business students achieve the careers they dream of thanks to dedicated faculty, unique hands-on activities, and challenging curriculum. “My University of Findlay professors would tell you I wanted to be on the business side of events, planning tradeshows,” Swift said. “I just graduated college in May and I’m doing just that. That’s a pretty good feeling.”