UF students won a national competition with an idea to host a sustainable fashion exposition in the heart of New York that incorporated a virtual format to match the comfort level of all attendees.
Caroline Murray was the only one to work virtually with three other UF students who proposed a hybrid sustainable fashion exposition. The team, called the Domino Effect, placed first May 5 in the Professional Convention Management Association North American student competition — becoming the first Gators to ever win the competition.
“We wanted to do something that we all had in common so that we would have an interest learning about it but also a trendy topic,” the 20-year-old UF advertising junior said.
The Domino Effect proposed an open market where sustainable fashion vendors could set up booths to sell their clothing.
The idea focused on recycling and upcycling clothes to allow consumers to find desired fashion pieces in a sustainable manner, Molly Heyner, a team member and 20-year-old tourism, hospitality and event management junior, said. The market would take place in Domino Park in New York City and would also have a virtual option.
The team’s idea was one of 20 other submissions from across the country. After advancing to the top five, students recorded a presentation of their proposal to be played for judges at the PCMA education conference.
“I was so surprised because everyone else had these really profound almost movie-trailer videos, and ours was walking through a PowerPoint presentation,” Sarah Lentz, a 20-year-old marketing junior, said. “I was like, there is no way we're getting this.”
This year’s theme was “Recovery, Discovery,” which PCMA described as how the events industry can move forward post-pandemic, Annemarie Sisson, a lecturer in the department of tourism, hospitality and event management at UF, said.
PCMA is an international association for event professionals that began hosting student competitions in 2019. During competition events, student teams from institutions around the country provide presentations on ideas that fit the respective year’s theme.
In the past, participation in the PCMA student competition was extracurricular work, but this year, Sisson incorporated the competition into her advanced event management class, which takes place in UF’s College of Health and Human Performance.
In-person students were required to work on a submission with a team, and online students were given the opportunity to join. While her teammates worked together in the classroom, Murray said she would participate in creating the expo through Zoom.
Joined by Sophia Alday, Heyner and Lentz, all of whom were in Sisson’s class in the Spring, Murray said the opportunity seemed like it would have beneficial real-life applications. Because she was a fully online student, she wanted to gain more from the class.
“I just wanted to get more experience and actually work with people because in the online portion we couldn’t work with people,” Murray said.
After an entire semester virtually developing the Domino Effect project with her teammates, Murray finally met two of her partners in person July 7 in Phoenix, Arizona. The trip was funded by PCMA as a prize recognizing the students’ outstanding proposal.
When trying to come up with their event proposal, Murray said someone on their team complimented another teammate's shirt one day during class, so they decided to focus their project on fashion.
Dr. Rachel J.C. Fu, the UF THEM department chair and director of the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute, said she’s excited to continue supporting the team in their individual and professional growth.
“This group is so independent, so my role as the department chair is to be their cheerleader,” Fu said.
For Murray, the project was special because she finally got to meet with her teammates and experience the victory with them in-person.
“We acted like we had been friends forever,” she said.
Contact Savannah Alday at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @sav0233.