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M. T. Hickman and students
M. T. Hickman (left), lead faculty and program coordinator, shares tricks of the travel, exposition and meeting trade with eager students.

Richland College Program Gives Students a Fast Track to Growing Careers

Contact: Debra Dennis; 214-378-1851

For immediate release — May 24, 2017 

(DALLAS) — Stephanie Campos has the ‘hands-on” work experience most other college students can only dream about. During her second year at Richland College, the travel, exposition and meeting management student can boast that she attended a trade show in Las Vegas; helped raise $6,000 at a charitable silent auction for the school’s travel club scholarship; and has interacted with industry leaders.

Last year, Campos gained even more experience when she worked during the annual meeting of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events — called Expo! Expo! Expo! — in Anaheim, Calif.

Students in Richland’s program are learning to customize the needs of visitors, conventioneers and travelers with competence and expertise. 

“I got to meet the exhibitors. I learned how a real event planner starts business talks. You have to like people and want to help them,” said Campos. “You’re always going to be employed because there’s always so much to do in this industry.”

Campos, who moved to Dallas from Venezuela, has worked for a travel agency. Last October, she attended the IMEX America trade show in Las Vegas, where she met other like-minded future leaders. “You can’t be shy. You can’t be afraid to talk to people. You have to work with a lot of different personalities,” she said.

As Campos walked the massive aisles of exhibitors, she imagined that she could someday help organize such chaos. She received a guided tour of the show floor and met vendors and industry leaders who represented hotels, digital marketing agencies and transportation companies.

“It is simply amazing and a great networking experience,” said Campos. “I met students from across the U.S. as well as other international students like myself. I felt the entire experience helped me understand what I really want to do with my career and what path I want to take in this wide and amazing industry.”

She added: “Many people who are outgoing work in sales.  And that’s what we do (in meeting management). You have to organize meals, meeting rooms, experiences and more. Your day will be different every day and that’s good.”

It’s All in the Details

Emery Zurchin considers herself a multi-tasker. She likes giving parties and hosting events. She has found a way to pair her passion with a vocation as she pursues an associate degree in applied science from Richland. 

“I like the ‘wow’ factor. I want to make sure I do something that I like,” said Zurchin, who wants to become an event planner. It’s all about networking.”

Campos and Zurchin are among many students pursuing either a degree, certificate or other credential as experts in the hospitality, travel, exposition and meetings industry at Richland College. They both enrolled in the same travel and tourism sales and marketing course, too. They want to join the ranks of professionals who plan conventions and trade shows, organize meetings and arrange travel. 

Students learn all facets of the trade, including weddings, anniversaries and reunions, said M. T. Hickman, lead faculty and program coordinator at Richland College.

“It helps if our students are good with people,” said Hickman, a certified meeting planner, tour ambassador and trainer, “because they meet with customers to arrange accommodations, including security, catering, transportation, facilities, special displays and other needs.”

This career appeals to students who have an eye for detail, possess good people skills and are good at solving problems, Hickman added. 

Promoting Tourism and Travel Never Goes Out of Style 

Even with new travel restrictions, the tourism season is a booming industry year-round in Dallas-Fort Worth. According to the U.S. Travel Association, more than 77.5 million international visitors come to this country each year, where strangers often part as friends.

Dallas is a major hub for restaurants, hotels, conventions and trade shows. And, the state is big on trade shows, exhibitions, sporting events and weddings. Professionals are needed to organize, network and plan all of them, Hickman said. “It takes a lot of planning and behind-the-scenes work to pull off these events.” 

Although experts in this field use many different titles — convention or event planners, travel agents or promotions experts — they all work diligently at fine-tuning every detail for their clients. “They are trained to coordinate and manage any size group,” Hickman said.

“Hospitality is a new area at Richland College” Hickman added. “New hotels are being built throughout the Dallas area, and a trained workforce is needed to ensure that each visitor has a positive experience.”

A degree or certificate is the credential that can place students directly into the industry’s job market after they leave school, or they may choose to continue their education at a four-year college or university.

The U.S. Department of Labor lists median pay for event planners at $46,840 per year or $22.52 per hour. The labor market outlook is positive with a 10% growth until 2024 — faster than the average of all occupations, labor officials said.

“You will find your passion, your willingness to travel and a chance to be adventuresome,” Hickman said. “This is the best career for travel lovers and those who want a career that is never boring. People will continue to travel for both business and pleasure, and that means TEMM professionals will be needed to make their travel experience successful.”

For more information, contact M. T. Hickman, lead faculty and program coordinator by email at or by phone at 972-238-6097.

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