GV students gain invaluable experience while working the Final Four

Pete Barrows

The Michigan Wolverines may have been the most notable collection, but they weren’t the only representatives from the mitten state present at this year’s Final Four hosted in Atlanta, Ga.

A 16-member contingency of Grand Valley State University students also made the trip south to participate in the festivities.

Working through the summer of 2012 to establish a Meeting Professionals International chapter on GVSU’s campus, senior and group president Erin Lecker and junior Stephanie Kramer, the club’s vice president, were intent on extending at least one volunteer trip offer through the club. In the inaugural year of operation, Lecker and the rest of the 18 or so active meeting professionals could have scarcely imagined the caliber of opportunity that would present itself to them.

“At the beginning of the year, we had kind of talked about taking a volunteer trip to gain some more experience in event management,” Lecker said. “I had thought the Final Four, just because it’d be an awesome opportunity, and when I realized it was in Atlanta, my brother works for the company (contemporary services corporation) that we ended up working for. It fell into place perfectly.”

In the afternoon of April 2, 16 members departed in a carpool and drove through the night all the way to the stoop of the Georgia Dome to fulfill their orientation with CSC. Save for a Sunday off in which some members chose to attend an Atlanta Braves game, a free concert held downtown and the college dunk contest won by fellow Michigander Doug Anderson, a senior forward from the University of Detroit Mercy, the trip was a whirlwind tour comprised of 12-hour days (usually starting around noon) and once in a lifetime experiences.

“The experience was incredible,” said GVSU junior and MPI member Kollin Currie. “We were so close to the action and got paid for it. (We) witnessed the interior working of what it takes to put on an event of this magnitude. The weekend attendance was over 140,000.”

Downtime was scarcely experienced by any of the roughly estimated 1,200 CSC volunteers who assisted tirelessly in a variety of fashions to ensure each component of the overall event went off without a hitch. GVSU MPI members alone had a full plate to concern themselves with.

“We worked the college all-star game, which included a concert by Gym Class Heroes, four open team practices and all three games,” Currie said. “We all worked the floor level, checked credentials during these events, were security and did tasks like walking in the team, monitoring the student sections, escorting in VIP guests etc.”

The work wasn’t without perks, however, and included benefits far more exotic than dental. GVSU MPI members, who were cognizant that they wouldn’t have been afforded nearly the same experience without the facilitation of CSC job duties, were grateful for the opportunity.

“The section I monitored had the Fab Five in it, Denard (Robinson), the families of all the players, Charles Woodson, Zack Novak (former Michigan basketball captain), Desmond Howard,” Currie said. “I rubbed shoulders with NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Patrick Ewing, Oscar Robertson, Bob Knight, Will Ferrell and the whole Anchorman crew, Christian Laettner and Gary Payton. Just unreal and so many others.”

Following a bitter 82-76 to the Louisville Cardinals, the University of Michigan Wolverines departed for home. Taking the cue, the GVSU MPI chapter followed suit and again powered through the drive in one straight haul on Tuesday, a week after it had all began. The experiences gained, particularly in the field of event management, and packed in with the return luggage were invaluable. The memories made were even more so.

“(My) fondest memory will be experiencing such a historic moment and being up in the action,” Currie said. “Being in the Michigan section and 30-feet from the floor (all GVSU members were close to floor) for the national title game and just seeing all the behind the scenes work that it takes to bring a big event like this together. There was so much energy in the building and it was a once in a lifetime experience I will tell my kids about.”
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