There’s no shortage of evidence to support how effective hands-on learning outside the classroom can be. Experts maintain that this is one of the most efficient means of achieving deeper learning and can have a variety of powerful results. Just ask any College of Charleston student who traveled to Banff, Canada, in March 2023 as part the College’s course on Meetings and Conventions Management.

“This is a regular, full-semester course,” explains Daylon Murphy, a senior hospitality and tourism management major who will graduate this spring. “Our professors in this class – Jeremy Clement and Brumby McLeod – charged us to work as a team and do the required planning to create an actual conference.”

A mandatory aspect of this class, Murphy says, is traveling to Banff, Canada, over spring break.

people at a curling facility in Banff Canada

Students learn about curling in Banff. (Photos provided)

“The event we’re planning will ultimately take place in Banff,” Murphy continues, “and it will happen over spring break at some point in the next few years. That’s peak ski season there and there are a lot of factors that make it an ideal destination for such a gathering.”

In the weeks before spring break in early March, Murphy and the other 14 students in the class divided themselves into three teams: a digital team to capture images and video for the purposes of promoting the conference; a logistics team to manage travel, accommodations and facility needs; and a culinary team to arrange meals and meal-time gatherings for the conference. Consequently, each team set up meetings with activity providers, such as ski rental outfits, local venue managers, hoteliers and restaurant managers in Banff.

“Our main goal prior to spring break was to determine the relationships necessary – there and in Charleston – to actually pull off this convention,” Murphy explains. “So, in the first weeks of the semester, we put together itineraries, made connections and mapped out potential activities. Then, while we were there on site, we conducted meetings with property managers and experienced some of the activities that we hope to offer to conference attendees, such as dog sledding, skiing and snowmobiling.”

For Murphy and her fellow students, the experience was phenomenal.

“When you’re actually there on site you can accomplish so much more regarding planning and cementing arrangements,” she says. “And Banff is an exceptional place. It’s a national park, meaning that every resource needed for a conference has to be available there. Each of our three teams ended up faced with a number of challenges that ultimately served as troubleshooting opportunities for us. Personally, what I encountered was an opportunity be a problem solver and tap into my leadership skills.”

Fellow classmate Bethany Brown concurs. “I’m more of a kinetic learner,” she says, “so having the opportunity to learn by doing is important.”

people reading a menu

Hospitality and tourism management professor Brumby McLeod reviews a menu with the culinary team at a restaurant in Banff.

Brown, a junior majoring in business administration, is serving on the class’ culinary team, which has focused its efforts on making connections with restaurant owners and managers in Banff. They’ve also had to attend to myriad other details such as menu planning and working to accommodate specific dietary needs or restrictions on the part of participants.

“This trip and this class has helped me strengthen my organizational skills,” she says. “Beyond all the meetings and research, our team had to accommodate everyone’s dietary needs or restrictions and plan accordingly. I had to make sure that we had the right ingredients with us every day, but that we also remained within the budget we’d established. And I learned that using positivity to work through all the problems we encountered can be an advantage. It supports better teamwork and instructs that similar problems can be avoided in the future.”

Murphy says taking this course and traveling to Banff is just one of the many extraordinary opportunities to be found at the College.

“Actually, it was the opportunity to have exceptional experiences like this conference course that drew me to CofC in the first place,” she says. “The College definitely takes a different approach to study abroad opportunities, and I think faculty and staff here have done an amazing job of putting together experiences that make you feel like you’re part of the culture where you study and not just a visitor.”

“Ultimately, most everyone in this class wants to be a credible resource as a conference planner. Personally, I plan to study hospitality management in graduate school after a year or so of working,” adds Murphy, who is moving to Chicago after graduation where she has accepted a position in management at the Four Seasons Hotel. “I want to learn what it takes to be a leader in this field. And the experiences I will take away from this course – particularly the opportunity of actually being in Banff – will be invaluable for achieving that.”