Wine Talk with Alice Swift
Behind the Scenes of UNLVino: The TCA390 Class at UNLV
This year, UNLVino celebrates the 42nd anniversary of an F&B event that draws thousands of people annually. But, what makes this even unique is the backbone of the operations. Meet the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration UNLVino faculty and students of the TCA390 course. The course description reads “Application of established standards, techniques, and practices of festival and event management. Research, design, planning, coordination and evaluation stages of festival and event management,” but it is so much more! Students go through a rigorous interviewing process in order to be accepted into the class of ~30 students. Each student is considered a “student manager” once admitted, with various roles and responsibilities.
The course is co-taught by Professor Todd Uglow, Visiting Assistant Professor, and Chef Mark Sandoval, Executive Chef pictured left to right in photo above, both with several years of experience from culinary arts to sports marketing and event management. Their desire was to prepare students to work in industry by giving them added responsibilities and decision-making freedom, while guiding them along the way.
Sandoval, being the former Executive Chef of the M Resort, wanted the event to focus on the concept of food AND beverage, rather than solely beverage. Students have the freedom to research and design their own menus. “Action stations” are set up with themes e.g., dim sum, shellfish, and “street tacos” to showcase the food and allow students to interact more with the guests.
Uglow manages the front of the house team and is responsible for three major areas: fundraising, marketing social media, PR, advertising, etc. and vendor relations. The most difficult task for students is fundraising, due to inexperience with contacting businesses and soliciting donations. Knowing this, Uglow ensures students are equipped with the right tools to be successful and represent the college well when reaching out to potential donors. One class session is even dedicated to teaching best practices of fundraising, with a guest speaker who supplies auction software for the event.
This year, the goal is to increase the number of male bidders, so be on the lookout for items such as sports memorabilia that will hopefully draw a wider audience. So far more than 85 items have been secured for the silent and live auction! A stand-out item this year is an all-day Baja buggy experience worth ~$1000.
Additionally, I had the opportunity to meet this year’s UNLVino class and interviewed three of the student managers: Shawna Pieruschka, Ariel Larson, and Jonathan Yuen pictured left to right in photo above, each with different reasons for taking this course. Yuen had Professor Uglow as an instructor before and wanted another opportunity to learn from him. Pieruschka “loves the stress and chaos [event planning] brings. At the end, you get to see it all come together, and get to be proud [and] get to say ‘I did that!’” Larson patiently waited year after year until she finally met the age requirement to join the UNLVino class… “So I was like ‘Yes!! I [can finally] get credit for it and work it, I get to plan it, and it’s all really exciting to me!’”
Not only did they explain how the class helps provide real-world experience for students to help reveal the pros and cons to the hospitality world, the class also helps with self esteem and confidence, being that each student takes on a manager role, leading other people and communicating with vendors. Larson says it best: “Sitting in a class, I don’t get to prove that I’m a leader or do anything like that. Here, I’m the culinary manager. I have to be in charge of others who don’t know what they’re doing, and I have to teach them along the way. I learn better by teaching others.”
Students who have taken this capstone course will graduate from UNLVino with the ability to say they now have real-world experience with culinary arts, event planning, marketing and advertising, recruiting, managing teams, fundraising, and so much more! This is such a practical and experiential learning opportunity for students, and I am always so impressed and in awe of the work students put into what is technically a 3-credit course.
Take this opportunity to attend UNLVino this year and in future years. Hopefully I will see you there!
• Chef Mark Sandoval = Bacon-Lover! Bacon, as Sandoval claims, is his first and greatest love. Even the UNLVino menu has an underlying bacon theme, i.e., pancetta in the Oysters Rockefeller and Bacon-Wrapped Dates.
• Professor Todd Uglow = Grease Monkey! Uglow’s passion/hobby is restoring antique cars, having restored more than 10 muscle cars, mostly from the 1960s-70s. His latest masterpiece is a beauty, a red 1970 Chevy Chevelle.