A Night in Wonderland • End of Semester Showcase

End of Semester Showcase

The Interdisciplinary Studies Department holds an event at the end of every semester there is a Senior Seminar course. During this event, the participants of the course demonstrate their two big projects of the semester, a research article and applied project within their field of study. With this being said, I have the opportunity this semester to plan and execute the event for the Interdisciplinary Department. This is an opportunity for me to apply myself and my knowledge to a project that illustrates my drive to pursue an event management and planning career. Below you will find all the elements that go into an event from the beginning until the end!


Event Objective:

The end of the semester showcase aims to provide the audience with a better understanding of the achievements of the students enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Studies Senior Seminar course. The students will demonstrate such achievements as the understanding and implementation of interdisciplinarity, their extensive research article, as well as their applied project.


Event Purpose:

Following the objective, the purpose of this event is to really educate the attendees about the Interdisciplinary Studies students’ wide variety of knowledge, skills and achievements. This event also aims to provide an entertaining environment for the students and their support systems to relax and have fun after a long, stressful semester.


Event Audience:

The primary audience of this event is the Interdisciplinary Studies Department, which includes the faculty and staff of the department, as well as the entirety of the students of the department.

The secondary audience of this event are the friends and family of the students within the Senior Seminar course. A lot of the students want to showcase their achievements that they worked so hard towards. Along with the students, the families and friends want to show their support and pride for their students, as well as learn more about what their students are passionate about.

The tertiary audience of this event is the campus and local community. This community would include professors all throughout campus that are interested in the success of the Interdisciplinary program, as well as any other faculty or staff that show interest, support, and/or pride in their students. The community may also include local community members that may also be interested in the program due to previous interactions or involvement.


Event Concept & Theme:

The event concept really lies within the idea that we are aiming to educate and entertain attendees. The event needs to provide an atmosphere both adapt to educating and entertaining. Since the baseline of the event is primarily educational (the student presentations of the research and projects), a themed event is a great way to incorporate entertainment into the event.

IDS Design by fellow IDS student, Ashley Hichborn

With that being said, after discussing the concept and theme with the department, an Alice in Wonderland theme for the event has been decided upon. This theme seemed to make sense for the Interdisciplinary Studies department since Alice took an unexpected adventure and was faced with many obstacles and decisions throughout her journey, eerily similar to the adventure Interdisciplinary students take. This theme will provide a fun atmosphere while still being representative of the educational aspect of the event.


Event Venue:

“The challenge is in adapting the setting to your vision, despite any obstacle that may come along.”  ~ Preston Bailey

One of the perks of planning an event for an academic department to have an event on campus is that there is no venue fee to hinder the budget. While our campus has gotten many different, new spaces throughout the past couple of years, it was decided that the event will be held in the same location as the many previous years. The venue on campus, named Frost Commons, has a very intimate and casual atmosphere. The maximum capacity of the venue is a total of 50 people, which only speaks to the intimacy of the space. Following the intimate atmosphere, the space has a variety of furniture that could be used, including rectangle and round dining tables, cushioned chairs, and various sized couches. This wide array of furniture would allow to have an intimate and casual feel, which will also lead to attendees feeling more relaxed. While the space is a very flexible space, a venue layout (below) would allow for quicker set up.

While this venue is ideal for the event, there are some challenges to the venue. There is a lack of close parking for the venue. There are lots close to the venue, but these lots are designated for staff/faculty, or for the church. Luckily, parking meters for street parking do not have to be paid after 5PM. Along with parking, there are also venue guidelines that are posted within the actual venue itself. These can be found here:

Frost Commons Restrictions

With all this being said, Frost Commons gives the Interdisciplinary event the consistency of having the same venue for every like event. This space does provide everything that this event needs, and does provide an atmosphere that aligns with the event purpose and concept.

Pre-Event Venue Images:

            Entry & Kitchen Area:

Entry Way
Entry Way
Entry way
Entry Way Table
Directly to left of entry
Kitchen, directly to right of entry
Buffet Table
View of entry from inside space
View from inside space

           Coat Room & Restroom Area:

Entrance to Coat area & Restrooms
Back wall of coat room
Area outside of coat room
Restrooms, to the left of entry
Looking back into the event space from coat room

            Reception Area:

Reception area entirety
Back of reception area  
Left side
Left side of reception area
Left side wall
Lefthand corner
Right side dining
Left side reception
Left wall french doors
Right side of reception area

            Presentation Area:

Presentation area
Amour in presentation area
Left side presentation area

            Venue Layout:

Rough sketch venue layout

Event Budget:

            Unfortunately, like most other aspects of the academic world, the budget for the event was not very substantial. There was an original budget of $400 given to me at the beginning of the planning process. While this may seem like a lot of money, $400 does not go as far as you would think. This budget was cut down as the semester went on due to unforeseen circumstances coming up. This has made me dig into my personal stash of event equipment to ensure that the space is transformed to the complete vision. As you can see in the chart below, food took up a majority of the finances for the event. I was able to order a couple minor decorations to use for the event. Event budget has been one of the biggest obstacles during my experience of doing events.

            Event Budget Chart:


To catch the target audience’s attention, I developed a flier to notify them of the event. I forewent

doing specific invitations to this event since the event is open invitation to the campus and local communities. With this being said, I took some elements from the T-shirt design (seen above, in Event Concept section) a fellow Interdisciplinary student, Ashley Hichborn, produced. This flier has been distributed to through Facebook and Twitter to mainly the Interdisciplinary Studies students, but also the greater campus community. Along with digital distribution, we put physical fliers up in the academic and student gathering areas. This method of marketing allows the students and professors who are interested in the department to have access to the information. The marketing campaign could have been bigger if the venue space would have allowed more people. This marketing campaign will be sure to reach our primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences.

Event Flier CC’d by Victoria Tobin


Food & Beverage:

As illustrate in the budget, food for this event took up a total of 83% of the budget! Typically, either the food and beverage or the venue are the most expensive elements of an event. Since we did not have to worry about venue fees, it was a no-brainer that food was going to be my biggest cost.

What can 83% of an event budget get you in food and beverage? Take a look at the image below to see what we ordered for food through our campus supplier:

Food & Beverage order

If you look at the order, you notice that there are only light refreshments ordered. The process behind this decision was an assessment of timing of the event, duration, purpose, and budget restrictions. As mentioned above, we had a very limited budget to work with, which definitely restricted what could be ordered for food and beverage. With that being said, we knew that the event started after a typical dinner time (6:30), so it can be assumed that attendees of the event would have already eaten a more substantial meal. While the event is scheduled to go until 9 PM, it has been proved in the past that the event usually wraps up before the end time, which means that we would not have to be subjected to provide food for the entirety of the duration of the event. Along with these other elements, the purpose of the event had to be assessed as well. The event was here to really educate and entertain attendees. This would include presentations and fun activities, food and beverage in this event is used to primarily ensure attendee satisfaction. With all of these assessments, the best course of providing food and beverage was determined to be light refreshments.



Since the food and beverage took up most of the budget, I was very limited in the decorations that I could get for the event. When we developed the event concept and theme, I decided to take the event in more of a whimsical, tea party feel instead of the dark side of Alice in Wonderland. Since the event is taking place in the middle of winter, I wanted to incorporate some fun colors to help brighten up the space. Here are some of the decorations that I was able to buy through my budget:


As you can see, these decorations are very whimsical and fun. I also grabbed a lot of inspiration from various places for table settings and ways to incorporate a tea party and Alice in Wonderland concept. Here are some of the things I grabbed inspiration from:



Stay tuned for my own creations for the decorations that can be found in the Event Preparation and Event Execution sections!



 While the purpose of the event is to educate, we still have to consider the entertainment aspect of the event as well. Since there is limited time and space for this event, there could realistically only be limited entertainment. One of my favorite event entertainment elements to incorporate is a photo booth. This concept works for this event so well because it allows attendees to enjoy the activity on their own time schedule. An event photo booth definitely adds some fun to any event! Here are some of the props I was able to get as well as some inspiration for the booth:

Photo-booths are a great way to add a little personality and fun into the event. I saw this through my execution of this activity. Guests were able to capture memories of the night through this activity. I, personally, used the photo-booth to capture a picture with my

My parents & I CC’d by Victoria Tobin

parents since they came to the event to support me. Executing this activity required some thought since a photo-booth is a very spatial consuming element. I had to strategically place the photo-booth to make sure there was room enough for the activity as well as not having a traffic pattern flowing through the activity. The guests ended up taking advantage of this activity towards the end of the event, after all the presentations concluded. The photo-booth definitely added some fun to the event!

Photo Prop box from a suitcase I already had
CC’d by Victoria Tobin
Photo-booth set up
CC’d by Victoria Tobin
IDS students dressed as characters
CC’d by Victoria Tobin
A little fun in the photo-booth
CC’d by Victoria Tobin


Event Preparation:

“Meticulous attention to detail is the difference between a ho-hum soiree and a fabulous evening.” ~ Preston Bailey

While the event preparation has really been on going, this section will go through the preparations of the days directly prior to the event. In order to ensure a smooth execution of the decoration of the space, I created various sketches of the spaces where decorations were going to take place. 

After the ideas of where the decorations were going to go, and what I had to come up with, my parents were gracious enough to allow me to take over their entire kitchen and living room to make my vision come to life.

There was a limitation of decorations that I could use due to financial and spatial restrictions. I decided to focus on the table scape to really illustrate the theme. With that being said, the event preparation for the tables included smoothing out the table clothes, cutting the tulle overlay to the correct length, and creating the center pieces.



Event Execution:

“Such detail is what ultimately creates the environment, and it is from that environment that the experience of the event emerges.” ~ Graham Berridge

While the event preparation was a very time consuming process, it did cut down on the set up time needed. I got to the venue at 1 PM after a final, and was setting up until 5:30 PM. While this seems like a long duration of time, to pull off an event with a little help from my mom we needed all of those 4 and a half hours to make sure my vision was what I wanted. Here are the final images of the space!

Here is a video of the tour of the venue. Unfortunately, I was too busy to grab some pictures of the event while in action.

Event Reflection:

Overall, I believe the event was very successful! While there were many limitations and restrictions financially and spatially, the usage of my resources were exhausted to achieve my appropriate vision. Decorations wise, I did not realize how time consuming the paper flowers and garland were going to be. While these decorations were a nice way to add color and a whimsical feel throughout the venue, I would definitely give myself a little more time to construct these decorations.

Along with the paper decorations, I would rethink the entry way design. There are two entrances to the event space, one where I put the entry way decorations and one through the coat room and restroom area. The previous semester, almost everyone entered through the entry way where I put the decorations, but this semester, most people entered through the coat room; therefore, they didn’t even get to experience the entry way. This was an element I put a lot of thought into, since the entry way really sets the tone and expectations for the rest of the venue and event. It was very unfortunate that most people didn’t get to experience the entry way as I wished. For future reference, I will analyze all entrances and exits to the venue to ensure that the vision I am striving for will not be hindered.

Another element I will always consider greatly, as well as rethink if I had to do this event again is the traffic pattern and the walkway allowance. The space I had to work with was very small to begin with. The layout that was already in the room was not conducive to the concept and purpose of the event. I wanted to allow all the guests to be able to see the presentations in a comfortable manner as well as to provide a setting that would allow a social element to the event. I thought the layout of the venue that I ended up coming with was appropriate for the concept and purpose of the event, but the walkways were a little constrained for guests to get from the food back to their seats. I would continue to think about the layout in little more depth and concentration on the walkway allowance if redoing this event.

With all things considered, I was very happy with the event from start to finish. The event was able to accommodate many guests, and was able to provide a very educational, entertaining, and social environment. I learned a lot from the process of this event, and I am looking forward to using this newfound knowledge in my future events.

Cheers to a successful event & semester!

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2 thoughts on “A Night in Wonderland • End of Semester Showcase

  1. I have to admit, it’s hard for me to get excited about big events because even though I like the actual content, the work involved in pulling things off always seems like too much effort. You really opened my eyes to how the planning and execution of a special event can transform the impact of the event itself. The evening was truly magical, and I was completely blown away by the transformation of Frost House. It was such an amazing setting for the sharing of capstone research, and it helped to elevate the event so that it really matched what is special about IDS. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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