A Presidential Experience - Hosting President Obama at Georgia Tech

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“It’s the president.” I hope I never forget the moment the Office of Special Events & Protocol (Laura Pusateri, Stephanie Sigler, and myself) found out who was coming to visit Georgia Tech. Not only would we get to see the president speak, but we would also be an integral part of the event planning.

A lot of our campus colleagues have asked us three questions about the event. We’re here to answer them.

Question 1: Did you get to meet the president?

No, we did not have the opportunity in all of our planning to meet him. Honestly, we were honored to see him speak and be a part of it. Our team did receive a lovely thank you note from the White House, though.

Question 2: What was the planning process like? How long did you have to prepare?

The planning process was insightful. Six days prior to show, the advance team arrived to tour the campus. The large group instantly divided tasks and broke off into smaller tasks. When you have to plan so much in a condensed timeline, you focus on your part and trust your team members to do the same.

For the next five days, we had a morning meeting of growing Georgia Tech departments to review what was done and what was needed. Each day the plans would change just enough to keep our afternoon busy. And each day our excitement grew as we saw things swiftly fall into place.

Question 3: What did you learn from the event?

Because all three team members worked on different aspects of the event, our takeaways varied as well.

Stephanie – I typically don’t work with students on a day-to-day basis, so soliciting over 200 student volunteers was a daunting task; however, with the help of the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement, the Alumni Association, and the President’s Scholarship Program, I had more than 300 student volunteers willing to participate in just under 24 hours. Lesson learned – take your cell phone number off your signature when emailing large numbers of students. J 

Laura – It was amazing to see the entire campus community come together for this one event. From our students, to the terrific staff who supported us as volunteers, to the committee who worked feverishly for five days to make it happen. It was a seemingly insurmountable task that came together beautifully!

Serena – I learned that well organized materials are your best friends. During the advance team walkthrough, I was thankful to have my notes and photos of McCamish Pavilion events on hand. I didn’t need time to find materials or sort through files – it was ready to go. That time arranging files post event paid off!

In the end, our team agrees on the same thing. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to participate in President Obama’s visit to campus and an event we will never forget.