We departed after lunch on Wednesday, November 15, 2017. All 27 students and 2 sponsors (Dr. KyleRyan and myself) were on the same airplane from Kansas City to New Orleans. Students carpooled to the airport and were advised to ensure they split gas/parking expenses. Upon our arrival at the airport, I had reserved a mini-bus from A1 Limo Company to transport the entire group to our hotel (Staybridge Suites); the students loved this transportation—it was a pretty nice ride.
Thursday morning, Dr. Ryan and I had a tour planned of some nearby historical sites and attractions. We started by walking from the hotel to Café du Monde so that students could experience the famous beignets if they wanted. Just up from the café was an overlook to the Mississippi River, and then right across the street was Jackson Square. Dr. Ryan and I discussed the idea of a “NOLA scavenger hunt” for students to participate in to keep them engaged and entertained. Café du Monde was the first site of the scavenger hunt where the hotel room groups were to get pictures, if they wanted to participate.
From there, we walked another block to St. Louis Cathedral. It is a beautiful site with rich history for tourists to see. Some students took ample time marveling at the architecture and art within the cathedral.
Next, a walk along the Mississippi river where the riverboats dock occurred. Steamboat Natchez has the steam calliope performance daily at 11 am; we were there during this time. If you aren’t familiar, the steam calliope is a 32-note steam pipe organ. According to literature when researching things for this trip, only 4 steamboats on the Mississippi have this instrument. There literally are steam plumes shooting from each individual whistle when notes are played.
Next stop on the walking tour was the Spanish Plaza. We had a group lunch and business presentation scheduled at noon at Hard Rock Café. The GM of the New Orleans location, Ed Ennis, provided us with insight into Hard Rock operations while we awaited our food. He shared some insightful information, such as their location is an $8 million/year organization. Ed also stressed the importance of safety to the students reiterating the fact that Bourbon Street is a completely different lifestyle than many are accustomed to. In his location, he basically experiences 100% turnover annually (non-management level). It is approximated that nearly $10,000 is invested into training and development for each employee—talk about a lot of money with that little of retention in their workforce. We also had the opportunity to meet the head chef (experienced in creating things for their local menu), the manager of the retail store (oversees all aspects of things that are sold which are non-food/beverage), and their entertainment manager (books shows and entertainment for their specific location a minimum of 4 events per week). At the end of the lunch and presentation, we were encouraged to walk around Hard Rock and explore all of their memorabilia within the establishment; every single item is authentic. From Hard Rock, more touring of the French Quarter took place. Many students loved the opportunities of such amazing photographs. Some students purchased tickets for a tour of the Mardi Gras World: The New Orleans Mardi Gras Museum that afternoon. We broke into smaller groups that evening for dinner based upon food preferences.
Friday morning we had a tour and presentation set up at the New Orleans Bio Innovation Center (NOBIC). NOBIC is a “nonprofit business incubator dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship and supporting Louisiana innovators as they develop life-saving new technologies.” We met with Margery Gilbert, Event Planner, and David Bode, Commercialization Director. These individuals shared some great information about the organization and provided a tour of the facilities. They are the first LEED-Gold certified building in New Orleans. One of the first items one notices when walking into the building is the hand-cast, recycled glass art wall. This is in response to Hurricane Katrina (glass was not able to be recycled after the hurricane), and the colors are to represent alchemy, flora, fauna, and medicine. Another interesting feature is their living courtyard area. Rainwater is captured, filtered, and infiltrated into the soil for maintaining the grass and plants. This article in the following link discusses the building details in depth and is extremely interesting and informative: http://www.hpbmagazine.org/attachments/article/12298/16W-Bioinnovation-Center-New-Orleans-LA.pdf.
From Bio Innovation, we had a quick lunch and some returned to the hotel to change clothes and some walked directly to the Hyatt Regency for the National Leadership Conference. Dr. Ryan and I held a workshop entitled, “Making Sense of College Wellness.” The program limits the description to just a few words, but the essence of the presentation is that wellness encompasses multiple domains. For one to experience true wellness, there must be balance among the various domains. We had an interactive workshop with a self-assessment for those in attendance to complete. In all honesty, we likely had around 100 people there. There was seating for 80, and people were standing all along the back and sides of the room. It was a lot of fun as there was much discussion going on the entire time. There were various workshops and professional development sessions throughout the day. We had a short break for dinner, and then there was a keynote speaker, Rhett Laubach, that evening who students really enjoyed.
Saturday included conference activities all day, again at the Hyatt Regency hotel. More breakout sessions were offered so students could select those that interested them most. Throughout the conference, session topics that interested groups of our Peru State students include the following:
• Business etiquette
• Careers in accounting
• Careers in social media marketing
• Coding and web design
• College preparation/wellness
• Discovering leadership styles
• Ethics – making the right choices
• Fundraising campaigns
• Interviewing skills
• IT and cybersecurity
• LinkedIn insight
• March of Dimes community service
• Microsoft tools for learning
• Networking for professional advancement
• Overcoming obstacles in leadership
• Principles of persuasion
• Project management
• Stress management
Then on Saturday night, there was another keynote speaker, Patrick Perez, who was very engaging and entertaining. Peru State also earned an award for having the largest college group at the conference. Furthermore, Nebraska was recognized as the largest state representation in attendance (PSC students were the only ones in attendance from Nebraska, which made it kind of fun to receive the award). In addition, throughout the conference, students could stop by the Professional Division booth to receive feedback on their application materials (resume and cover letter). After the conference, most students went to enjoy a late dinner and games at Dave and Buster’s.
Sunday, students were given a variety of options for their time. That day, the New Orleans Saints played in town (just up the street was the Mercedes-Benz Superdome). When trying to get a group tour of that venue, which they do not offer to the public, the event coordinator informed me to instead have students attend a free tailgate experience at Champions Squire that began 3 hours prior to the game. Tickets to stay and actually attend the game were a little pricey, so individuals chose to then spend their afternoon at the National World War II Museum instead. This museum is New Orleans’ top tourist attraction and ranked, depending on the source, anywhere from #2 to #4 for museums. Hours upon hours can be spent here.
On Sunday evening, two PSC alumni (Ryan Arnold and Amanda Jo Cleek Arnold) who now live in Houston, met with the students informally. After thinking about how I could introduce the students to Ryan and Amanda at some point during the trip, I realized it would be extremely beneficial if we had a group meeting where Ryan and Amanda could talk about their college experience—things they look back upon fondly, anything they wish they would have done differently, etc. They also talked about the importance of internships, their transition to the workplace, what it was like uprooting and moving to Texas without any friends/family there, and their current work experience—in the retail sector (Amanda as a manager of a Verizon retail store) and corporate sector (Ryan working on the business side for Verizon). Ryan and Amanda also touched upon what it was like experiencing a hurricane—Hurricane Harvey hit Texas 10 days after their baby was born. After they were done talking, students had the opportunity to ask some questions as well. Dr. Ryan and I felt it would be beneficial for students to “see” and “hear” from others who were just recently in their same shoes. It always seems to mean more when students can visualize and relate.
Additional events that groups of students took part in were carriage rides around the French Quarter, visiting the Jean Lafitte Historic Park & Preserve, listening to live jazz music in the French Quarter, getting a picture of Fats Domino in the Musical Legends Park observing street performers near Jackson Square, and touring Louis Armstrong Park and the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. Monday morning, Dr. Ryan and I went to purchase Mardi Gras masks for the winners of the NOLA scavenger hunt: the hotel room of Sara Granfors, Rachael Cole, Rozlyn Cole, and Meredie Ludwig won. Then, the rest of the day involved traveling home.