Unleashed 2022: Behind the Scenes of Columbia College’s Fundraiser Gala

Photo Credit: Julie Lucas (Strategic Communications and External Relations)


The “Unleashed 2022” Gala was an unprecedented event for our college community, as it marked the first fundraiser held in over a decade. Associate Professors Robert Blandford and Mary Filice, led the Business and Entrepreneurship Department’s Events Management Practicum class that helped organize this event. The College tasked them with the challenge of creating a remarkable experience that would leave a lasting impression on the attendees. Their team anticipated the opportunity to collaborate with students, faculty, and departments from all disciplines and media across the campus. They took a hands-on, direct approach to plan and execute this mega event with the students.




Photo Credit: Julie Lucas (Strategic Communications and External Relations)


Photo Credit: Julie Lucas (Strategic Communications and External Relations)

We spoke to a student from the class, Jessica Meis, who mentioned, “The AEMMP Collaboration with the UNLEASHED fundraising gala was a development from the Curatorial Practicum course in the BUSE Department. 2022 was the 40th anniversary of the AEMMP record label and the department was looking for a way to bring the legacy to life in a visual experience on campus. The original project was an exhibition in the Hokin Gallery accompanied by a window display in the 618 S. Michigan building during the months of Lollapalooza. Due to unforeseen circumstances during the summer of 2022, the window was no longer available and the curatorial team was brainstorming ways to reimagine the exhibition in a new way. Fortunately, the UNLEASHED Gala provided an interesting venue to collaborate with the AEMMP students in class.

The Gallery Practicum course designed a pop-up experience in the student center to be accompanied by a live recording demonstration during the gala for guests. This was a unique and exciting opportunity to activate an exhibit with students to bring their work to life and connect with guests. This experience was a collaborative effort between the Student Center, the three BUSE Practicum courses (Events Management: Gala, AEMMP, and Hokin Gallery), the Development team, and the Gala committee to come up with a lively and inspiring experience for the CCC students and gala attendees. For the Gallery Practicum team, it was a challenging, yet very rewarding experience to be a part of. We were really proud to showcase AEMMP’s 40 years of phenomenal work in the music industry and the legacy future students are continuing each semester. ”

In the Events Management: Gala Practicum, all students were broken up into teams of 2-4 to work with the various departments. They all ranked the different activations by their personal interests. In the BUSE Department, students have interests that range across different creative industries such as music, dance, visual arts, and film.  There was a great variety for the participants in the course to work with. Each student became the activation producer for their assigned department and was tasked with communicating with faculty and student representatives. Departmental and individual activities were represented appropriately and had the resources they needed to be successful during the gala. The department activations/teams included:

    1. Student Ambassadors
    2. Fashion
    3. Music – Jazz Trio
    4. AEMMP
    5. CTVA & Dance
    6. Interactive Arts & Media
    7. English & Creative Writing
    8. Photography
    9. Illustration/Design
Jessica Meis was a part of the Student Ambassador team working with the Admissions Department. She helped coordinate all of the student staff welcoming and assisting guests throughout the student center. Speaking to her about what she learned, she said, “I think one of the most valuable things I learned during the event was how to balance the different goals of all of the different stakeholders. As students, we were in charge of the activities for the evening and fulfilling the goals of each student group/academic department. However, also involved in the gala was SCER (Strategic Communications & External Relations), the Development Department, the Board of Trustees, the Student Center, and the outside agency that helped produce the event. It was a wonderful experience to work with each of these departments and a great insight into how big events like the gala are produced, which I hope to do in my future career.”

The successful execution of this event relied on a combination of essential skills such as events management, communication, logistical planning, scheduling, coordination, and people management. Their team comprised over 125 individuals who worked cohesively to bring this event to life. They demonstrated their ability to think on their feet and adapt to the unpredictable nature of event planning. The experience of organizing this gala has equipped the students with transferable skills such as events management, project management, creative festival management, and fundraising expertise. These skills can be utilized in future endeavors such as commercial event management and organizing fundraising events. Overall, the inaugural gala was an unforgettable experience that inspired and prepared students for future challenges in event management.