When Sarah Vickery graduated from Southeast in 2004, she knew her degree would open
the door to many chances for success. What she didn’t know, however, was that she
wouldn’t have to look far to find a position in her field. As the director of sales
and marketing at the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, she remains close
to her family while receiving opportunities to travel and meet interesting people.
"I was familiar with the work of the Convention and Visitors Bureau through being active in the Chamber of Commerce,” Sarah said. “The position opened, and I was very interested in learning more about it, so I went for it.”
Sarah’s involvement in the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce complemented her bachelor of science degree in mass communication with an emphasis in public relations. She said she still refers to lessons learned from Southeast.
“The Department of Communication provided me with the best background in public relations that I could have asked for,” Sarah said. “I’m constantly thinking back to certain classes and remembering some of the main concepts that were taught, such as writing press releases, speaking in public and building and maintaining business relationships. The Donald L. Harrison College of Business also helped me develop sales skills that I use all the time.”
While she mostly travels regionally and statewide to promote Cape Girardeau as a destination for sporting events, business meetings, conferences and leisure travel, Sarah said she occasionally travels through the nation, presenting bids and marketing the Cape Girardeau area. Once a group or organization accepts a bid, the process of planning their event can take as long as a year.
“I love seeing an event or a tour come to fruition after working on it for a year, or sometimes even longer,” she said. “I really enjoyed working with the VietNow members for their 2008 National Convention, which they elected to hold in Cape. I got to know them and their organization very well, and worked with them for about a year to prepare for the convention.”
As the director of sales and marketing, she also researches possible leads, puts together proposals, updates marketing materials and brainstorms new ways to promote Cape Girardeau. It’s impossible to predict what kinds of organizations will be interested in the area, so it’s essential to be open-minded.
“Once, a tour group came to Cape via RV (Recreational Vehicle) and stayed for two weeks!” said Sarah. “It was interesting to learn about their RV lifestyle. They toured many attractions, ate in our restaurants and shopped in our stores. Every group is different, but learning about them, getting to know them as people, is what makes this job so fun on a daily basis.”
As many people know, becoming proficient in any career involves a few setbacks. Sarah said it’s always disappointing to see an organization choose another city for their event, but giving up is not an option.
"Sometimes that happens, and you just try again for the next time that group is looking for a host city,” she said.
As a Cape Girardeau native, Sarah said she chose Southeast because she was brought up around the University, participating in summer camps as a child. Attending athletic events at Southeast with friends and family is still one of her favorite pastimes.
“As I got older, I realized Southeast had great academic programs for the fields I was interested in, so it just made sense for me to stay here,” she said. “Even though I am from Cape, I made the decision right away to live on campus and get the full college experience. It was 100 percent worth it. The friends I made then are still close friends to this day.”
Many young people hold the belief that once you “land” a job, your personal and professional development will plateau. However, this belief is both false and foolish, as demonstrated by Sarah’s (and many others’) continuing accomplishments. She currently is working on her master of business administration degree, emphasis on marketing, from Regis University, which she hopes to complete by 2009. She also continues to participate in a discipline she has been working with for a while. When you see Sarah’s smiling face on the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Web site, you may be surprised to learn this fact about her: She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
“Earning my black belt is one of the biggest accomplishments I’ve ever achieved, something I’m extremely proud of,” she said. “I have been training and competing for many years now, and I still train a few days a week and compete.”
She also travels to Winter Park, Colo. for Tae Kwon Do training during the summer, of which she said, is “the most beautiful and peaceful place I have ever been.”
Along with soaking up “everything you can,” Sarah also emphasizes the importance of networking.
“Never burn bridges with former professors or people from your department, because you never know when they can lend a helping hand in giving you a reference or offering professional advice,” Sarah said. “Enjoy every moment in college, because those years fly by, and before you know it, you’re in the real world.”