Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 24 2015

Valerielizbeth Villa: Heartland Chapter Education Foundation Scholarship Winner and Emerging Leader Extraordinaire!

Natalie Parker, Special Volunteer Contributor

Photo By: Jacob Slaton

As the winner of the Education Foundation scholarship to EduCon 2015, Valerielizbeth (Valerie) Villa has some simple advice for others interested in event management: stay curious.

Currently a senior at Iowa State University, Villa is graduating in December 2015 with a major in event management and a minor in advertising. She became a student member of the PCMA Heartland Chapter two years ago through her University’s Event Management Club. 

Villa’s own eager and inquisitive mind earned her a diversity scholarship from the Education Foundation in 2014, which enabled her to further fund her education and attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference for the past two years. This opportunity allowed Villa to experience working at a large-scale conference of around 14,000 attendees, which was instrumental in helping confirm her decision to focus on conference management. 

Villa gave a speech on the opening day of the conference in Fort Lauderdale about the challenges she has faced and how the Education Foundation scholarship has helped her break through them. As one of six children raised by a single mother in LA County, California, Villa said that her success has encouraged her siblings to pursue higher education or pursue additional development in their own fields. 

Above all else, she is eternally grateful for the opportunities she has been given. 

“Being a part of PCMA has allowed me to gain real experience of working at a conference,” Villa said. “I have been able to network, receive advice, hear stories and most of all learn the ‘dos and don’ts’ of conference management.” 

Even more than her college classes and internships, actually experiencing conferences has helped her explore more career options and categories of business she had not been familiar with before. In addition to PCMA and the Education Foundation, Villa said that the Generation Meet blog has been an excellent resource for her as a student and emerging professional. With career resources, internship opportunities and thought-provoking articles, the blog has helped her clarify her path. 

In the future Villa sees herself working with venue management or special event for an association but she maintains she does not want to limit herself to a specific area. She jokingly compares herself at this stage to a padawan learner from Star Wars; she wants to see the whole galaxy and learn from the best. With a passion for processes and discovering how things function, Villa’s ultimate goal is to work somewhere that gives back to the community – like EqualityNow, the TedX conferences or Oxfam America, which she has experience with as the Iowa State University Events Director. 

When prompted to give advice to other young people pursuing a career in event management, she said that her curiosity and willingness to try new things have been her most beneficial traits. 

“People should allow themselves to adventure a little bit,” Villa said. “To be passionate about something that they truly like.”

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