Mock Con’s ‘Chief Memory Maker’ As director of operations for Mock Con 2020, Kylie Piotte '21 puts her event-planning skills to the test and finds her fit at W&L.
“I love meeting alumni who were involved in the convention in past cycles and listening to their stories. It has truly made me feel part of the W&L community, and I know I’ve formed relationships that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
~ Kylie Piotte ’21
Hometown: North Andover, Massachusetts
Majors: Business Administration and American Politics
Q: How and why did you get involved in Mock Con 2020?
In the fall of my freshman year, I was fortunate to be in Beginner Tennis with Mock Convention Political Chair John Harashinski. I didn’t know him well, but he mentioned an information session for Mock Con was taking place later one afternoon. I applied after hearing about the director of operations position because I loved the idea of being a part of something bigger than myself and my four years at W&L. I was not truly a part of any major group on campus at that point, and I was working hard to find my “fit” here. I have significant experience event planning and coordinating groups of people, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try. After a lengthy interview process, I received the role and am very grateful for the opportunity to this day.
Q: What does your role on the team entail?
As director of operations, I serve as the “chief memory maker.” Operations includes logistics, events, memorabilia and sales, and sustainability. I work closely with the chairs of each division to ensure every event meets the goals and standards of the greater organization. My role includes meeting with vendors, directing the allocation of the operations budget, and event planning. If it does not directly relate to our ultimate prediction, it is very likely under my department. As a member of the Executive Team and Steering Committee, I am also fortunate to be involved in both the nitty-gritty details and larger items pertaining to the entire organization.
Q: How does the staff decide which speakers and visitors to bring onto campus, and when will the team announce speakers for Mock Con 2020?
The speaker’s chair and team works hard on the names and acquisition of our esteemed guests. However, they work off suggestions from all of us, so it’s a very collaborative effort. From an operations standpoint, we want speakers who will attract as many people as possible from all areas of campus. Our mission as an organization is to both get it right and do it right, which means reaching all students and members of the community to make our events as inclusive and welcoming as possible.
We will announce speakers closer to the convention itself. Don’t worry – our lineup is exciting!
Q: How do you ensure that the convention emulates and maintains the same professional environment as the National Convention?
Working in tandem with the Political Department, we have established a co-departmental Rules Committee to work on both the research of the actual DNC processes and the execution and adaptation of them. The Political Team researches methods and what should be adopted based on our resources, upon which they write up our W&L Mock Con rules. Operations handles all script writing and run of show to ensure we meet the professional standards we strive for.
Q: What has been the most popular event and the most popular piece of memorabilia among students thus far?
In terms of popularity, I view the Delegates’ Fair and Presidential Gala as tied for most successful. More than 1,500 students joined delegations over O-week at the Fair, which is the largest amount in Mock Convention history. The Presidential Gala took a significant amount of planning over the past few years, and it was such an honor and great feeling to hear about all the fun people had. It’s a nice feeling to make positive memories for students! I can speak for the entire team in saying that after pulling off a gala of that quality, we are so excited to showcase the convention itself.
In terms of memorabilia, everything we’ve sold has done exceptionally well. The most popular item we have sold thus far is the crew-neck sweatshirt that says “Mock Con ‘20” in an iconic design. We sold out within two weeks earlier this fall and had to order nearly 500 more just to cover wait-listed students and additional purchases. If you look around, almost everybody has this sweatshirt – it’s a great feeling. The Memorabilia Team always knows what students will love, and we’ve proved that time and time again. Technically, we’ve sold more state tees than any other item, though. This cycle the shirts were entirely student-designed, and we are so proud to have made that possible. There’s a feeling of pride that comes with wearing a shirt you or your friend designed, and so many of them are hilariously creative.
Q: What can you tell us about Mock Con 2020’s sustainability initiatives?
For the Presidential Gala this year, our events chair had an amazing idea for a “Blue Meets Green” theme. We worked to incorporate the sustainability initiatives of the Democratic Party as well as our own and transformed the Athletic Pavilion into a gorgeous and eco-friendly space. Additionally, part of our ticket sales went towards a substantial donation for Boxerwood. We’ve hosted a glass drive, partnered with Nabors Service League for a massively successful Service Day, and chosen to go paperless for Convention Weekend. Also, we are actively pursuing carbon offset programs to help offset the emissions from our speakers’ travel to Lexington for the Convention!
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of this job so far? How about the most exciting?
The most challenging aspect of this job is easily the time commitment. With the amount of collaboration required to pull off the series of events at this level, I spend at minimum 20-30 hours per week on Mock Con-related tasks, in addition to my classes, homework and social life. Plus, we work all summer – American politics does not take a summer vacation, and neither do our ambitions for our organization. I was told it would be a commitment, but freshman Kylie did not know what it was like to be this busy!
In terms of most exciting, there are so many moments I can reflect on. Of course, I love meeting alumni who were involved in the convention in past cycles and listening to their stories. It has truly made me feel part of the W&L community, and I know I’ve formed relationships that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The other most exciting aspect would have to be the student feedback on events. There is so much time and work put into everything operations does, from designing T-shirts to picking out carpeting, that guests will never see or consider. Watching a line wrap around Commons for a gala ticket or selling out of a merchandise item is a rewarding feeling because we know we have resonated with students and helped make memories that they really only get once in their lifetimes.
Q: How have your studies at W&L helped you with your role? Has this experience impacted your future goals?
More than any class in particular, certain professors in the Williams School have become invaluable mentors. Professor Jeff Schatten has enabled me to consider how I lead and why I run my department the way I do in his Organizational Behavior course, and he has also coached me individually with some tough negotiations I’ve dealt with as director of operations. Professor Scott Hoover has been invaluable in putting things into perspective. He is both the Mock Con advisor and my academic advisor, and I am able to go to him for advice on the big picture work my department deals with, as well as personal guidance. Also, Global Politics with former Professor Wesley O’Dell helped me develop a much better perspective on how politics works. Even though I’m in charge of operations, I still like to be in the loop with what’s going on politically to understand the most important aspect of our convention – the prediction!
I actually think Mock Con has helped me more in my classes than vice versa. Leading a department of 30+ students intimately, all of whom work on vastly different projects and having vastly different schedules, priorities and expertise, has made me a better collaborator, a better listener and a better student for it. My role as director of operations has absolutely prepared me for the workforce.
Q: What advice would you give a new student who is thinking about getting involved in Mock Con?
I would say you should not hesitate – jump in, because you have one chance to make a huge impact on an event that only takes place once every four years. It will be the most challenging, time-consuming, rewarding and fun time of your life. There is simply nothing like it on campus – there’s a spot for everyone, political junkie or not.