“Baptism by rain” is what Cal State Dominguez Hills alumna Arleene Valdez (’11, B.A., communications, minor in marketing) calls her first assignment as a planner of consumer events at the Los Angeles Times after it rained on the newspaper’s annual Festival of Books for the first time in its 20-year history.
Fortunately, the festival is so popular that it still had its largest turnout to date in April 2016 as its long-time fans and newcomers—more than 100,000s attendees—broke out umbrellas or just got wet as they strolled the entire USC campus to find books, and enjoy literary speakers, performers, and food. All the while, Valdez and her colleagues in the Times’ events department were running around tackling issues as they occurred.
“This was my first event at the Times and I was still trying to figure things out,” said Valdez, a first-generation college student born in Brawley, California, which is just across the border from where she lived in Mexicali, Mexico. “People really love the festival—nothing can stop them. It was an interesting day for sure. I think once you (an event organizer) go through something like that, you can do any event.”
Valdez and her team are responsible for the production and “programming” of the national daily newspaper’s large events, which consists of working with and coordinating logistics with guest speakers, artists, groups, and others—particularly sponsors—from initial planning until the events end.
They also coordinate events for Hoy, the Times-owned Spanish-language newspaper, and smaller events such as monthly business forums, “watch parties” for political debates, screenings for the Academy Awards, as well as editorial events such as location setups for LA Times political writers at the recent presidential conventions. Currently, the department is preparing for the “Los Angeles Times Presents: Return of the Rams,” on Sept. 15, an evening celebrating the legacy of the NFL franchise and its return to Los Angeles.
“Every time we put together a successful event the expectations go up, said Valdez. “It validates our success, and we love helping our newspaper grow and continue its work of informing and educating so many people.”
Valdez not only earned her bachelor’s degree at CSUDH, she also began her event planning career at the university during her senior year. She worked as a New Student Orientation event coordinator, then took a full-time coordinator position in University Ceremonies and Events in 2012.
“The work I did at Cal State Dominguez Hills helped me prepare for my job at the LA Times in every possible way,” she said. “When I worked at University Ceremonies and Events, which was just a two-person department then, that’s when I really began to understand the scope of large events. Now, when thrown into large projects, I am able to manage the workload and stress well.”
When I worked at University Ceremonies and Events, which was just a two-person department then, that’s when I really began to understand the scope of large events. Now, when thrown into large projects, I am able to manage the workload and stress well. – Arleene Valdez
Valdez looks forward to her future at the Times. As a “foodie,” she is exciting about her department’s production of the “The Taste,” a “celebration of Los Angeles’ best food and wine” that will take place Labor Day weekend at Paramount Pictures Studios.
“The space is smaller than USC, but it’s still a huge event with more than 100 of the best restaurants in L.A. coming throughout the weekend,” said Valdez.” The sponsors are bringing in chefs to cook and/or prepare cocktails to go along with the theme–they’re doing custom activations, and all kinds of fun things. It’s a ton of work and it will be nice when it’s all done, but I’m really looking forward to it. These are the things that make my job so great.”