Feature Stories 2024: Devon Zapor '24: Event management

Devon Zapor '24 pictured inside the Welcome Center
Feature Stories 2024: Devon Zapor '24: Event management
Devon Zapor '24: Event management

Management student builds experience toward dream job

Entering college, Devon Zapor knew he wanted to make a career in sports arena or concert hall management. Four years later, he's built an impressive résumé for events management as an admissions ambassador while adding a worldly perspective by studying abroad in Athens, Greece.

"When I was in high school, I went to a playoff Yankee game and saw all the smiling faces in the crowd and thought about all the jobs that must be in place to ensure such a huge event ran smoothly and that everyone had a good experience," says Zapor. "I felt like it'd be really intriguing to be the person in charge of the operations at a venue like that and decided to pursue this as a career."

Admissions Ambassador

A first-generation college student entering UMassD during an unprecedented and mostly remote semester in the fall of 2020, Zapor easily could have been swayed from his dream career path, as "events" weren't quite the same during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Zapor stuck with his "why," and applied to work as an admissions ambassador in his sophomore year when the university began offering in-person tours again.

"I love working as an admissions ambassador because I help students find out if this is the campus they want to attend and maybe live at for the next four years," says Zapor. "I've been given so many opportunities at UMassD, so it feels right to give that back to prospective students."

Admissions ambassadors are responsible for providing campus tours to prospective students and their parents throughout the year and are leaned on heavily during Open House and Admitted Students Days, where they manage check-in desks, answer questions, guide families, and move furniture as the day goes on.

Making sure more than 3,000 guests find parking, navigate to their respective presentation at the correct time, enjoy food, buy merchandise and, most importantly, have a great experience, offers many parallels to staffing an athletic or concert venue.

"This position helps to build my skill set for customer service, public speaking, logistics, event planning, and more," says Zapor. "I've learned a lot of skills that I'll apply to the workforce when I graduate."

Zapor also values the friendship and mentorship opportunities that come with a job that brings so many diverse students together.

"Being an ambassador is kind of like being part of a student club. There are so many students from different majors and class years all coming together. I've made so many friends through this program both older and younger than me. I recommend this position to any student who wants to build skills in event management, sales, and public speaking. It also helps younger students learn more about our campus and the opportunities UMassD provides."

Assistant Director of Admissions Events & Student Programs, Katie Jones, says Zapor is an integral component to Open House and Admitted Students Days, two of the university's biggest events each year.

"Devon is a true example of a leader in the admissions office," says Jones. "He's been appointed a captain of his area at multiple Admitted Students Days and Open Houses. Being able to trust Devon with this title allows me to know that if things go wrong, or assistance is needed during an event, I can count on Devon to step up and take the lead. He truly is great at problem solving! It's a skill I see many students struggle with, but never Devon.

"Outside of his normal duties as an ambassador, I have caught Devon helping other ambassadors several times for no reason other than wanting to see success in the admissions office. From showing them around, to helping them practice the tour. Devon is not only a leader, but a team player, and I attribute that to his drive in event management. Devon is a true Corsair at heart!"

Studying management

What's exciting about studying management?

"The flexibility. I would encourage anyone not sure what they want to study to look at majoring in business. Management is particularly broad, so you can tailor it to whatever your passion is and crack into any industry you want, which most students don't know entering college."

Do you have a minor?

"Yes. I added a minor in operations management to complement my major after a conversation with a mentor who works at Madison Square Garden. Management helps develop my skills in leadership, coordination, and delegation. Operations builds skills in pre-event planning, distribution, and efficiency."

Studying abroad

After two years giving tours of UMassD, Zapor decided it was time for a change of scenery. In the fall semester, he flew to Athens, Greece to study abroad at the American College of Greece.

"This was by far the best experience of my life," Zapor says. "Coming from a small town in Connecticut, being able to see so many different cultures, beginning to learn a new language, and just traveling and learning from others was so life-changing. I got everything I wanted out of the experience and more."

How did you decide on Greece?

"Once I decided I was interested in studying abroad, I spoke to Gina Reis, assistant director of the International Programs Office, and talked about a couple of programs that fit my academic goals and touristy wishes. I'd always been fascinated with Greek mythology, so the American College of Greece was an easy choice."

Devon Zapor '24 pictured in Milan, Italy.
Zapor pictured at the Duomo di Milano in Milan, Italy.

What did you study?

"I took two business-track electives – events management in the hospitality industry and sports marketing – which was particularly fascinating to evaluate the Olympics where they were founded. I was also able to take three non-business electives, intro to archaeology, listening to music, and intro to sociology."

Was it difficult learning in a foreign country?

"Not at all. All courses at the American College of Greece, or Deree College, are taught in English. English is basically Greece's second language, and most hospitality employees speak it. If not, we always had a point of contact through our provider that spoke English and Greek."

How smooth an experience was this?

"Very smooth. I'm sure everyone's experience will differ, but Gina will make sure the process is as smooth as possible for you no matter where you end up. All the logistics of the trip were very streamlined through our provider, the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS)."

First-generation

Being the first person in your family to do anything is nerve-racking. Zapor isn't just on track to become the first in his family to graduate from college. By studying abroad, adding a minor, and serving as an ambassador for the university, he made the most out of his opportunity.

What does it mean to you to be a first-generation college student?

"It's very motivating for me. It's made me want to apply myself 100% in appreciation for the opportunities my parents set up for me. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to study here and to be just one semester away from graduating."

Do you have any advice for other first-generation students?

"Follow your heart and your gut. Trust yourself and your passion. I'd also advise students to join a club or an intramural sport or find a job to build some form of community outside the classroom. Peers help take the pressure off so you don't feel isolated navigating this path alone."

How do you know UMass Dartmouth was the right choice for you?

"I've truly developed and grown as a person, and I feel like that's what makes a successful college experience. It's not necessarily about getting perfect grades. It's about finding and developing yourself. Closing my chapter at UMassD, I feel like I've done just that."

Favorites

  • Professor: Chris Jacobsen and Jacqueline Einstein
  • Class: Management 401: Applied Organizational and Career Development
  • Extracurricular activity: Rock climbing
  • Mentor: Jess Mercier
  • Spot to eat: Arnie's Subs
  • Place to study: Library 5th floor
  • Hangout spot: The Welcome Center
  • Memory: Studying abroad in Greece
  • Event: Blue & Gold Weekend