>>Up-and-Coming Meeting Professional
Conference Coordinator, Cygnus Expositions
Sean Schuette graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa in 1994 and didn’t immediately get involved in planning events. “I was an administrative assistant at Target with a meeting and event planner’s heart,” Schuette says. At Target Corporation, he organized recognition events, department meetings and picnics, but it wasn’t until he took a job as conference coordinator with Cygnus Expositions in 2002 that he really found his niche.
In the past year, Schuette has used his background in theater to help him direct conferences, and has won high praise from his industry peers. He is involved in planning up to eight conferences a year for 2,000 to 15,000 people for the Burnsville company, and is responsible for convention logistics, speaker coordination, food and beverage functions, special on-sites events and all the audiovisual logistics for the expositions he coordinates.
Last year, Schuette won the Rookie of the Year award from the local chapter of Meeting Professionals International, and currently serves as the Programs chair. Schuette maintains a high work ethic, which is evident in the nickname his peers have given him—Schuette on Duty.
Co-Owner, Eclipse Transportation
Bernie Fautch moves people. He started doing it 13 years ago as a chauffeur. In 1999, he and partner Dace Hanson started Eclipse Transportation in St. Paul. The company has an assortment of sedans, SUVs, limos and vans to move people around locally, and partnerships with transportation companies nationwide and around the globe so their clients can get to where they need to go. Eclipse also can provide mini-coaches and motor coaches if needed.
Fautch says he wants the company to become a one-stop shop for transportation, providing the vehicles in some cases and the coordination in others. The company already has gone global and plans to continue that trend; perhaps Fautch’s decision to get his degree from the University of Minnesota in political science and international relations was prescient. To Fautch’s peers in the industry, it’s clear he’s driving in the right direction.
>>Up-and-Coming Special Event Planner
Event Coordinator, Augsburg College
Jodi Collen is busy. In the past year she organized on-campus conferences for international and external groups, homecoming, commencement, development events, alumni and staff banquets, dinners, and weddings and wedding receptions at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. In addition to her full-time job, Collen was the vice president of programs for the Minneapolis and Saint Paul chapter of the International Special Events Society (ISES). She helped plan a spring break event for the ISES Conference for Professional Development hosted by the Twin Cities last August.
The event was so successful that it made the local news, and has gained Collen and her colleagues top kudos from their global peers. She also helped start the Distinguished Speakers Series for the local chapter of ISES, which brings in heavyweight speakers from all over to stimulate professional growth and education for Minnesota planners. And as if that wasn’t enough, Collen is working on a master’s degree in tourism administration from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She’ll graduate in May 2004. It’s clear that this up-and-comer is headed straight to the top.
Meetings and Events Manager, Public Affairs Division, Land O’Lakes
For the past two decades, St. Paul native Peg Tschida has worked for Land O’Lakes in Arden Hills. She began her career there as a legal secretary, but over the years realized that she was more suited for a career that she didn’t even know existed. “I’ve always been involved in planning things, but I never realized there was an industry out there,” Tschida says. In 1992, she moved into the public affairs division of the company, where she assisted with planning internal meetings as well as public relations events. Just over a decade later, Tschida heads a team of six in her role as the meetings and events manager in the public affairs division.
Tschida and her team organize more than 200 meetings a year for anywhere from 10 to 2,500 people. Tschida is also active in the local chapter of Meeting Professionals International. For the third year in a row, she is the co-chair of the Chapter of the Year committee. Since her start in the industry ten years ago, Tschida has proven herself a professional, patient and fair colleague. Her dedication and enthusiasm for a job well done is apparent.
KELLY COMMERFORD, CHME
Director of Marketing, Oak Ridge: A Dolce Conference Destination
Twenty-one years ago, Kelly Commerford began his career in the hospitality industry at the Radisson Hotel Corporation. At 23, he was promoted to managing director. At 25, he was the youngest direct of sales and marketing in the history of the company, and the hotel saw a 47 percent increase in sales under his leadership. He spent eight years with Radisson, then moved to Benchmark Hospitality to oversee the marketing efforts at the Northland Inn Executive Conference Center in Brooklyn Center. Now, Commerford heads the marketing department at Oak Ridge: A Dolce Conference Destination in Chaska.
Since arriving at Oak Ridge, Commerford has worked with the staff to re-position the conference center that is owned by American Express and managed by Dolce International. Instead of the strictly corporate business the property used to welcome, social events are now encouraged. Within two years of Commerford’s arrival, the center, which was once losing money, has become a profitable operation. A former president of Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), Commerford strongly believes in getting involved in the community that has given him so much. But that doesn’t mean he only gives back to his industry. He and his colleagues at Oak Ridge have formed a charity committee that actively helps several organizations across the Twin Cities, including Rolling Acres and the Ronald McDonald House.
>>Special Event Planner
Co-Owner, The Design Group
There’s more to an event than flowers, as Nancy Jacobs, co-owner of The Design Group in Minneapolis, knows. Nearly fifteen years ago, she and husband Timothy Jacobs started the business. “We started the company because we felt there needed to be a production facility that was a one-stop shop that could supply each of our clients with everything they need for an event, from production of stage design to logistics to graphics to fabric to floral—anything having to do with making an event spectacular,” says Jacobs. At the same time, Jacobs was the manager at Butterfields Florist in the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, where she was often called upon to come up with creative, themed ideas for her clients. That creativity expanded from flowers to include every aspect of planning an event.
Now, The Design Group has production facilities in Minneapolis, Las Vegas and Orlando and works with clients across the country. Jacobs is committed to the industry, and last year co-chaired the International Special Events Society’s Conference for Professional Development held in the Twin Cities in August. Jacobs is highly regarded within the community and has repeatedly proven herself a high-caliber professional.