by: Kevin Belanger, Director of Volunteers
Congratulations to Natalie Duren, CMP for Winning the PCMA SE 2018 Convening Leaders Scholarship
We asked Natalie to tell us more about her hospitality industry journey, and here is what she said:
“Born and raised in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, the hospitality industry has always played a significant role in my life. I guess you could say my hospitality career truly started when I was in high school working for a beach rental company during summer and winter breaks. I enjoyed all the planning and special touches that went into preparing these properties for excited families coming on their annual vacations. It was that enjoyment that led me to pursue a degree in hospitality management from Clemson University with a concentration in hotel management.
Required for my major, I completed a front desk internship at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa during college and after college accepted a front desk internship at the Walt Disney World Resort. These internships really opened my eyes to the different components that help drive hotel success, but there was one component that really interested me and that was meetings and events. Although I really enjoyed my time at the Walt Disney World Resort, an opportunity in Atlanta, GA presented itself at the Westin Buckhead Atlanta as the catering and conference coordinator. After being exposed to all segments and sizes of events, my passion for large meeting led me towards the conference services side and I was promoted to an event manager for both corporate and association groups. I learned so much about event logistics in this role, but had a greater desire to see how these events were executed before they even made it to the hotel.
I decided I would study and test for the CMP designation to become better educated on events from start to finish and during this process, I was approached by one of my clients and asked if I would be interested in taking over their meeting planner position as the current one was moving. This was the perfect opportunity to satisfy that desire and really apply the knowledge I was learning. In that role, I traveled to some of the most wonderful places in this country running board meetings and educational events and planned a large part of the association’s annual meeting. It was through my boss at this organization where I was introduced to PCMA, and my excitement to learn more about the industry reached an all-time high. I attended educational programs, participated in webinars and even joined a committee.
I received my CMP certification in May of 2016 and my desire to learn more about planning did not stop. While I enjoyed my time on the association side, I wanted to explore the corporate side. This Halloween I will celebrate my one year anniversary with Georgia-Pacific as an event planner and I am so glad I took the leap to explore! I carried my PCMA membership with me and soon after joined the corporate task force committee. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of this membership and definitely would not be where I am today without it. I am very much looking forward to Convening Leaders in January and can’t wait to see what the future holds, but until then, my focus continues more on the present as I help plan the biggest event of my life, my wedding this December!”
Convening Leaders Scholarship recipient’s registration and hotel accommodations sponsored by Visit Music City, and airfare sponsored by PCMA.