Kelly Schwantes ’21
Theatre major, Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor
Event Services Manager, Wisconsin Center District

How did Butler prepare you for your career?
When I decided to attend Butler, I chose to get my Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. Since a young age, I have enjoyed acting and performing on stage. I loved the idea of spending four years of college acting. While enrolled, I chose to minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I didn’t know anything about business, had some space in my schedule, and wanted to capitalize on the financial commitment to my education. My studies at the Lacy School of Business prepared me the most for the career I have now, which at the time, I didn’t think I would pursue.

What skills or knowledge gained at Butler have been most useful in your career?
Sometimes it’s hard to remember all of the classroom skills we gained in college. We remember fond memories and hard lessons learned with our friends and peers. As a Theatre major, I experienced moments where I had to rely on my peers to lift me up. The “show must go on” is a real thing. These moments taught me the importance of empathy and to relate to others with active listening and feeling. 

Now, I spend my workday listening to the needs of my clients and attendees and finding ways to improve upon the mistakes we’ve made. I’ve learned the importance of effective communication and finding the line between a gentle nudge and an overbearing ultimatum. Organization and time management are essential in Event Management as they are in arts and entrepreneurship, but empathy prevails overall. With empathy, we can accomplish more things more efficiently together. 

What is the most important thing you learned at Butler?
While speaking about my experiences in the Butler Theatre department to prospective students, I always emphasize the importance of receiving a well-rounded liberal arts education. This means learning all the trades that go into your craft, both on and off the stage. Students in the Theatre department at Butler must take a one-credit course called Professional Theatre Practices (PTP). Students learn three theatrical trades in this course: costume construction, set construction, and lighting implementation. The program requires you to learn all facets of theatrical arts to help you discover your interests, allowing you to help on other peer projects.

Who influenced you the most while you were a student?
My first-year seminar professor was Paul Valliere. The topic of our year-long lecture was “Faith, Doubt, and Reason.” Professor Valliere passed on one of the most important life lessons in a quote by Russian novelist Boris Pasternak, who said, “To live life is not to cross a field.” Professor Valliere helped teach me that we don’t always have the luxury of straightforward choices in life. Those obstacles should not deter us or keep us from accomplishing our goals in life. Instead, it should remind us that we are human and make mistakes.

What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing a career in this field?
The field of Event Management is a burgeoning one for young professionals—those who are eager, task-oriented, collaborative, forward-thinking, and empathetic. What’s great about where I work is we are all doing what we are good at for the sake of promoting meetings, conventions, and events and ensuring the satisfaction of our guests and clients. That vision requires event managers, but it also requires engineers, carpenters, accountants, graphic designers, human resources, and the list goes on and on. I work with people from all different backgrounds, industries, and regions of the United States. 

After working in the industry for a few years, I advise working with an organization whose mission you’re passionate about and whose team is serving a larger purpose beyond managing one event to the next. You can work within a meeting planning organization like I do or within an organization that needs its meetings planned elsewhere. Still, the goal should be the same: seek to elevate your knowledge through your teammates and clients.