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Arts, Entertainment & Media Management Student Spotlight

AEMM Student Will Rogers


Will Rogers

“Chicago is the greatest city in the country,” says Will Rogers. Which might be surprising to hear when you consider he comes from Florida.

“A lot of people thought I was crazy,” says the Arts, Entertainment and Media Management student. “I’ve been to a lot of big cities, but none have felt like Chicago.  The city just left such a good taste in my mouth.” Will first experienced the Windy City during the last year of his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida.

Chicago is the greatest city in the country.

“When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a composer for TV shows and movies,” he says with a smile. “Then I decided to write music for theme parks. Eventually, I ended up with the idea of running conventions.” After earning his degree in Hospitality Management with a minor in music, Will pursued this idea for two years in Orlando, working for Disney, Anheuser Busch and Expedia, coordinating special events and selling tickets and packages. He also found time to play trombone in a ska band.

“Suckerpunch,” he says, laughing. “That was the name of our band. We even opened for Less than Jake.”

While working for the entertainment giants, Will realized something was missing.

“I wanted an edge,” he says. “I wasn’t any more marketable than anybody else.” Also tired of the corporate climate in the companies he worked for, Will decided that grad school might offer the answer.  He considered the Arts, Entertainment and Media Management program at the recommendation of his former professor, Ron Logan.

“I have a lot of trust in him,” he says. “And after further inspection, Columbia College just felt like the right fit for me.”  

Combining what he considers his two skill sets, music and arts management, Will hopes eventually to do operations and marketing work for a large-sized venue. “House of Blues, Harris Theater, Chicago Theatre, Madison Square Garden,” he says laughing. “It would be amazing to work for any of them.”

I'm working with the Executive Director and website redevelopment partners in order to strengthen their brand, widen their audience base, and optimize pricing and distribution strategies. What I'm doing in my internship is what a marketing consultant would do.

In the meantime, Will has put his skills to use at an internship for Chicago a cappella. “I did a little bit of everything,” he says of the position. “They were redeveloping their marketing plan for a younger audience, and I did whatever I could to help.” His relationship with the organization allowed him to develop his position into work for his thesis.

“I'm working with the Executive Director and website redevelopment partners in order to strengthen their brand, widen their audience base, and optimize pricing and distribution strategies,” Will says of his thesis work. “What I’m doing in my internship is what a marketing consultant would do.”

“The music there is amazing!” he adds.

With the accounting, management, and strategic planning skills he’s picking up from the degree program – an MBA for the arts – Will hopes to eventually start his own music venue.

“I want it to be open and feel appropriate to whatever’s playing.  And ideally, I’d love to stay here to do it,” he adds.  Though he earlier decided working for Disney wasn’t for him, Will admires their approach to business. “They’re the best in the world at what they do, and I want to take that attitude and apply it to what I do here.”

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