Last week, I interviewed the current President of SEE, Eric Higgins. Given his extensive involvement on the board all four years of his undergraduate experience, he was the perfect person to present the evolution of a SEE Director. In these four years, he has been on three different teams: promo, programming, and operations. Check out my conversation with him as we talk about his journey with SEE, what it takes to be a director, and advice for anyone looking to get involved in SEE.
A special thanks to Eric for his time and allowing me to interview him.
Christina: You have been on the board for four years now. When was the first time you remember hearing about SEE?
Eric: My sister was a senior at UMD when I was a freshman and she was the one who introduced me to SEE. She wasn’t involved, but knew about it and knew that I was interested in event planning. I visited their table at the First Look Fair, which is how I think most students get involved with SEE, and started going to M-Team meetings every week after that.
Christina: What was your first impression of SEE?
Eric: I spent all of fall semester freshman year on M-Team getting really involved in different contests like chalking and decorating. SEE seemed like such a professional organization. When I got on M-Team I thought that the directorships were sort of secretive. Everyone had to keep the artist names a secret. It was kind of intimidating, but I felt that there was so much more for me to learn about the board which made me want to get involved even more.
Christina: When did you first know you wanted to get involved?
Eric: One of the first events I worked on while on M-Team was the Kevin Hart show. I helped pass out coffee cups to attendees in line, and in exchange I got to go to the show for free. I remember the Marketing Director let me come back behind stage in Cole Field House and I was able to see all the directors. It doesn’t really dawn on you that they are college kids just like you because everyone is acting so professional. It was this exciting behind the scenes work that no one else saw that grabbed my attention, and I knew then that I wanted to be a part of it.
Christina: What was the position you initially wanted?
Eric: I initially wanted to be the Marketing Director because as someone on M-Team, that's what I knew best. That was my connection to the SEE board. I felt comfortable applying because I knew how it worked. Advertising was my number two because I had done some graphic design work before. Retrospectively, being given the Advertising position was the best thing for me at the time.
Christina: How did you feel about the Advertising Directorship?
Eric: I remember I first had to design a poster for a comedy show with Trevor Noah, which was surreal. I was suddenly on email chains with lawyers and talent agents from big industries. Also, the entertainment industry is so idealized, but being a director peeled back the layers of the industry. It kind of takes the mystery out of it all. Now I can’t go to a concert without analyzing the ticket process or the production side of things.
Christina: Can you describe the training process a little bit?
Eric: I loved my SEE 101 training! It was a great experience working with eight other incoming directors. My incoming year we all got along really well. I have a lot of good memories of going to SEE training, even though it was on Friday afternoons. We worked on mock proposal and budgets, and we even did a mock meeting. A lot of the training comes from watching the current board at weekly meetings and events. As incomings we typically don’t talk much our first semester and just absorb the culture of the board.
Christina: Did you always know you wanted to apply for another position?
Eric: When I realized I wanted to join SEE, I knew I would be here for all four years. I wanted to pick one or two things on campus and really commit to it rather than spreading myself too thin. It was hard to decide what new position to apply for, but I never thought I would leave once I started.
Christina: What was the next position you wanted as a director?
Eric: I considered staying on promo or moving to production but eventually came to the decision that I wanted to try programming as the Musical Arts Director. There was a bit of a learning curve, but I found that a lot of programming is just logistical things and a small part of it was picking which artist to bring. It was a good experience.
Christina: Why is it that most people need experience on the board in order to get certain positions (Concerts, Comedy etc.)?
Eric: What we try to stress is that a lot of the responsibilities of those positions need you to be on the board for a year or so, seeing what happens at each event and how the organization works. Keeping people on the board with general event programming skills is useful. A lot of times when we interview someone we think about their future in SEE. Sometimes we look at someone and think, “you show a lot of potential and you could be President or Concerts,” but those positions take time to develop into. So we will start them with another position so they can get comfortable on the board before they are responsible for much larger budgets and events.
Christina: What advice would you give someone interested in being a part of SEE?
Eric: Attend our events! And when you do don’t just look at the show, but think about the behind the scenes of what it takes to pull it off. A lot of people just see the actual show, but for example, we spend over 48 hours building the stage and getting everything ready for Art Attack. People don’t think about that. So if someone can come in with a behind the scenes mindset, that is really beneficial and gives them an edge. We don’t just want people that like “cool events,” we want someone who will think about all the time and effort it takes to put these events on. Also, it helps to be confident. We are given a lot of responsibilities, and you have to be okay with uncertainty. SEE is all about taking calculated risks. Jared Paul (SEE Concerts Director alumni, and current talent agent in LA), when he spoke at the homecoming Terp Talk, compared event planning to legalized gambling. You never really know if people are going to show up. You can think through all the logistics, but at the end of the day, you just take the risk. We look for people who are optimistic, hardworking and confident, so keep that in mind.