Questions From a Hospitality Management Major: Hitch Studio Answers as a Wedding/Event Planner

Hitch has several students working for us this semester and over the summer. One of them, Danielle, is a hospitality management major at South Dakota State University. She asked me a few questions about what I thought of the interdisciplinary side of the hospitality management major coming from a wedding planner/event planner background. We get asked to speak to a lot of classes about our entrepreneurship endeavors and business ownership. They ask all kinds of questions from successes to failures, books I read, and if I’ve ever had a bridezilla. I thought I would share my answers in case they could benefit other students wondering the same thing. Hospitality is just that — sharing your knowledge with an open mind and heart.

~Renee Halgerson, owner/designer, Hitch Studio


Q. Do you feel that your job is interdisciplinary?
A. Having more than one branch of knowledge in my job is absolutely crucial because of the variety of work I do. Because Hitch Studio specializes in website design, graphic design, wedding invitation design, wedding planning and a retail store, I need to have knowledge of the fundamentals of design, of course. But more importantly, I need to have business sense, customer service, leadership skills, management experience, as well as marketing, advertising, merchandising, financial sense, accounting knowledge, and more. I think an entrepreneurial sprit comes with a thirst for knowledge in many areas.

Q. How often do you find yourself working with others?
A. Most jobs require you to work with others, but our line of work gets a little more personal and in-depth than most. I’m with a bride and groom and their families on their wedding day (one of the most important days of a couple’s life!). I work to coordinate all the vendors in one location. I meet with couples who are choosing invitations and bring their bridesmaids and parents along to help with the decision. I work with other retail business owners to join forces in marketing or events. No only am I helping clients and customers, but we have also hired two interns and a group of set-up and tear-down helper at Hitch. I learned the most about working with others in my previous job (office politics, email etiquette, how to conduct a meeting, voicemail courtesy, etc.), but nearly any job will require great communication skills and listening skills when working with others. It’s essential.

Q. Do you find it easier working with people, or by yourself?
A. I like to start a large project by getting overall feedback from a group or my business partner. It helps me get my arms around the project and all the parameters. Then, I work by myself to design, organize, plan, work out any details, and then present my thoughts/design/event to the group for opinions and thoughts. I begin and end with group thoughts on larger projects. On smaller projects, like designing a wedding invitation, I prefer to work on it solo from beginning to end, so no fine details get missed. Environmentally speaking, I prefer to design while working surrounded by people. When writing or doing accounting work (tedious work), I prefer to work by myself. 

Q. When a part of a group project, what role do you find yourself usually taking?
A. It just comes naturally. I almost always find myself in a leadership role. According to the Strengthsfinder test, I’m an “Individualizer”, “Maximizer” and “Achiever”, all which give you insight into how I work. I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about effective leadership (not just a management title) throughout the years. It’s rare that I’ll fall back and not lead a group, but if that’s the case, it’s because I know I am under-qualified to be leading that particular charge and enjoy learning about how others lead. 

Q. Do you feel that interdisciplinary studies is an important part of the curriculum here at SDSU?
A. Yes, and the best example I can give is when I’m looking through resumes. I always look for the students who are in school full-time, have jobs (most of the time more than one), are in groups, clubs or sports, who have studied abroad, who are learning a second language, who lead a church group, who have a variety of interests and more. The more interdisciplinary, the more well-rounded the student, and open-minded they may be. I always look to hire students who have a variety of skills and experience.

Q. How is interdisciplinary studies related to hospitality management?
A. Because an interdisciplinary studies student can customize his/her courses to fit his/her precise career goals, a student in hospitality management could really focus on consumer affairs, leadership, communication, and other related courses. To have knowledge of the inner workings of a venue, hotel, event space, casino, theme park, restaurant, club or more – all will make you a more educated and balanced employee. Learn as much as you can about all disciplines. You never know how it might make you stand out in your job. 

Q. What are some important traits of someone in the hospitality field? 
A. Hospitality is a field in which people are constantly, and sometimes unknowingly, rating your service, your reception, your helpfulness, your warmth, your kindness and congeniality, your smile, and more. Someone in the hospitality field must have patience, an even-tempered manner, a helpful attitude, be a communication expert, be a lover of small details and the big picture vision, know how to keep their cool in any situation, and often guiding decisions for people – a consultant of sorts. I always feel that the best traits of a person in hospitality management or customer service leave you with your questions answered before you even knew to ask them.

Q. Does interdisciplinary studies relate outside of the workplace?
A. Of course interdisciplinary studies will relate outside of the workplace in places like clubs, church, groups, sports, meetings, and even personal gatherings. Having a wide range of knowledge will always be helpful. It can help you make (the fine art of) small talk, it can keep you interested (a pre-requisite of being interesting) and will broaden your outlook on the world.  

Q. Is there anything you don’t like doing, or wish you could change in your hospitality position?
A. I love my job. I have the heart of a teacher and love to serve others. I believe that getting people closer to their goals, will get me closer to mine. I enjoy a lot of parts of my job, but if there’s one aspect I don’t enjoy, it’s working with people who need to blame others for their simple oversights. (And it’s really easy to place blame on a venue coordinator or wedding planner rather than a family member, so it happens quite frequently.) But you learn to take it in stride and apologize of any oversights when it’s appropriate. 

Q. What advice would you give to students pursuing a degree in hospitality management about interdisciplinary studies?
A. Challenge yourself to take as many courses that interest you as you can. I would also encourage you to shadow some venues (large and small, local and national), talk to event planners, talk to managers in many positions, ask them questions, read blogs about your industry, subscribe to e-newsletters about your future career, read books, attend seminars, and never stop learning about your interests. That’s when you know you chose the right career – when you love learning more about it long after you’ve graduated. 

If you’re an instructor, please Let us know if you’d like Renee Halgerson or Carrie Kuhl to come speak to your SDSU class. We tailor our message to your class and both of us have even taught at SDSU! If you’re a student, we hope this Q&A helped.  🙂

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