January 18, 2013

Student playing role in state’s inaugural gala

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- When Southern Illinois University Carbondale student Leyra Imundo attends the Illinois State Society’s Presidential Inaugural Gala and Ball in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Jan. 19, she will have a better idea than most about the hours of planning and work that went into it.

She was part of it.

Imundo, a sophomore hospitality and tourism administration major from Kennesaw, Ga., has been in the nation’s capital since Jan. 5, helping in a behind-the-scenes role with the inaugural gala.

 “We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty now,” Imundo said earlier this week, just days from the inaugural event.  “I’m running on fumes.  But, this is very exciting; it’s been a great experience.”

Imundo is an intern with the Illinois State Society of Washington, D.C., the oldest state society in the capital. A state society is an educational and social organization that promotes the culture and trade of the state it represents.  The society hosts events throughout the year highlighting music and food from the state, and also presents educational forums. 

The inaugural ball, however, is one of the biggest events that state societies present.  While the ball is often not host to the President or President-elect, the events are fancy affairs that take months in the planning.

Imundo is assisting Suzanne New, executive chairperson of the Illinois Inaugural Gala.  The organizational work needed to put together an inaugural gala is vital.  Imundo’s jobs have ranged from tedious envelope stuffing to a role in supervising other volunteers.

Not only does she love it -- she’s going out of her way to add to it.

“I’ve discovered I really enjoy the hotel aspect of this,” she said, referring to the Marriott Renaissance Hotel, which is hosting the inaugural gala ball.  “I don’t know if I will continue to work with not-for-profits as much; I still need to learn more about that.  But I do know I enjoy the hotel business.”

Imundo is making the most of her opportunity, talking with hotel event organization professionals whenever she gets the chance.  She hopes to earn another internship pertaining to hotel events in the future.

“I’m very grateful to Suzanne New for the experience, and for the opportunity she’s made possible for me,” said, Imundo, the daughter of Sandra and Michael Imundo.  Imundo’s mother and New are friends.

For Imundo, it isn’t all just work, nor will she have to play Cinderella on Saturday night.  She  will attend both the gala and ball, and New encouraged her to invite two of her friends from SIU Carbondale to join her at the events, she said.

“This will undoubtedly open doors for Leyra for internship as well as career opportunities,” said Nicole Davis, instructor and coordinating counselor in the Hospitality and Tourism Administration program. “I always stress to students that any industry-related experience should be on their resumes.”

The skills that Imundo is learning -- networking, communication, supervising, planning, problem solving, crisis management, and overall attention to detail -- are skills that the program emphasizes, Davis said.

The program offers both a specialization in event planning and management as part of a bachelor’s degree, and a non-degree diploma in event planning and management that is open to all majors.  The program is within the Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition in the College of Agricultural Sciences.