In March 2019, I traveled to Wilmington, North Carolina for the VisitNC365 conference. The VisitNC365 conference brings together tourism stakeholders from all over the state to connect, share ideas, and learn more about trends in the industry. In addition to attending seminars and hearing from two keynote speakers, I was able to be a part of a seminar myself. Along with three of my fellow students, I assisted the department’s very own Whitney Knollenberg with her presentation on how planners can evaluate their events and analyze that information to improve those events.

While at the conference, I had plenty of opportunity to network with professionals in the industry. The first night of the conference included an evening social at a venue overlooking the Cape Fear River. The social showcased foods and drinks from the area including local craft beers. While at the social, we were able to enjoy a performance by a local band named Machine Gun who has opened for acts like Nelly. This gave me time to talk with professionals and discuss what work they do as well as speak with them about what I hope to do after graduation. Some of the most notable professionals I was able to speak with were a part of the UNC TV team. Growing up in North Carolina, many trips to my grandmother’s house involved watching UNC TV’s NC Weekend on the couch. So I was super starstruck I when I met the show’s host Deborah Holt Noel. In addition to meeting Deborah, my classmates and I met the station’s producer to discuss the potential for a partnership between UNC TV and NC State which would pair students with internships and potentially jobs.

I found this experience to be very helpful in my professional development; not only did I learn a lot about the industry but getting the time to talk with tourism stakeholders and see how they are addressing issues I have learned about in class was really interesting. I hope to return to the VisitNC365 conference next year in Asheville, North Carolina.