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Making a difference from behind the scenes

By chriscal

Section: Features

November 6, 2009

A modest Planner: In her job as senior events manager for Brandeis’ Office of Conference and Events Services, Jenn Eddy helps large events on campus, like commencement, run smoothly.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

A modest Planner: In her job as senior events manager for Brandeis’ Office of Conference and Events Services, Jenn Eddy helps large events on campus, like commencement, run smoothly.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

When Jenn Eddy walks into a room, you pay attention. There’s something about Eddy that commands your respect, and it’s not her stature. At a mere 4 feet 11 inches tall, Eddy is petite even in high heels; yet, she exudes a presence that shows you she means business.

This commanding presence, and Eddy’s talent for multitasking–skilled at dotting every last I and crossing every last T –comes in handy while organizing large-scale events and teams of workers; something Eddy does at Brandeis as Senior Events Manager for the’ Office of Conference and Events Services.

Eddy is what you’d call a go-getter; spunky and energetic to the core. She’s somebody who stumbled upon her current career after much exploration, but now that she’s found it, she thrives in her work environment.

Sometimes responsible for running two or three major events on campus at once, Eddy juggles many tasks. But as a mother to a 6-year-old son, she’s used to a hectic schedule.

Even though she seems to have it all down to a system, Eddy’s current line of work wasn’t always number one on her organized to-do list. When asked what she always envisioned herself doing, Eddy laughs, and describes her former career aspirations.

“I wanted to be in the FBI and [do] white collar crime and go into banks and kind of do undercover work,” she says. “And then I wanted to be a health educator, and then I thought ‘Oh I’ll be a finance person. And I just didn’t like that. And then I got into catering and operations and event planning, and that’s when I knew that’s where I wanted to settle into.”

And settle in she has. Over her past 10 years at Brandeis, Eddy has interacted with all areas of the Brandeis campus, from student organizations to various university departments and outside clients. All the while, she’s made a difference from behind the scenes, ensuring that everyone’s event or special day runs perfectly.

In her current position as Senior Events Manager for Conference and Events Services, Eddy ensures the flawless execution of major events on campus such as Alumni weekend, Orientation, Fall and Spring Open House and Commencement. She also helps various departments on campus plan internal conferences that are larger than your average departmental meeting.

Eddy’s organizational skill is not limited to just the academic year. During the summer she coordinates programs such as conferences, sports camps, and helps coordinate housing for various departments on campus.

Eddy, a New Jersey native, started out at Brandeis in 1999 as Social Events Manager and helped to coordinate various events on campus such as Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, bridal showers and baby showers.

She then moved on to conferencing, where she helped plan events for external clients and the over 200 Brandeis clubs and student organizations. During this time, Eddy interacted a lot with students, something she misses now.

“I love working with the students,” she says. “So I do miss that part somewhat, but I do like working with the internal campus as well because it kind of gives me more exposure to the internal workings of the campus and different departments.”

Before developing her passion for event planning, Eddy attended Bryant University and received a Bachelor’s Degree in business administration with a concentration in finance. She then earned her master’s degree in public administration from Framingham State College. After graduating, she started work at Newbury College in Brookline, Mass. as a health educator, teaching sex education to college students.

From Newbury College, Eddy moved back to Framingham State College, where she worked as a campus operations coordinator, coordinating room reservations and set up through a food service. It was here where she first developed her passion for event planning.

For Eddy, it’s the process of event planning and the outcome that’s most exciting.

“I like seeing it from beginning to end, and the end result is the most important to me,” she says. “I like to see that the clients are happy and [the event is] how they envisioned it would turn out.”

Talking to Eddy, you can tell she genuinely loves helping others. She takes pleasure in making sure that other people’s events run smoothly, and is hesitant to pat herself on the back for any hard work she performs.

For someone who does most of her work behind the scenes, Eddy does not think she makes an enormous impact, which is why hearing positive feedback from students she’s worked with in the past is so rewarding for her.

“Just to feel acknowledged and recognized is nice because I don’t feel like I…make a difference in that respect,” she says. “It’s just my job and that’s what I’m here to do. So that’s kind of nice to hear.”

Although she doesn’t work as much with students on a daily basis in her current position, Eddy enjoys any chance she does get to interact with them. One opportunity is commencement, when Eddy manages a team of students ushers.

Eddy teaches commencement ushers a thing or two about organization, treating them with the same respect and holding them to the same standards as actual employees.

Talking in her office in Kutz, Eddy sits with her arms set in a business-like manner. She sometimes speaks in a tone of biting sarcasm and has a cool demeanor that’s down to earth, yet shows she means business. But if you ask students she’s worked with before, beyond this tough exterior lies a caring, humble individual who has made a difference in people’s lives.

Take Cindy Kaplan ’08. Kaplan says Eddy’s no-nonsense attitude and efficient work ethic make her a great listener. And Eddy’s advice made all the difference to Kaplan during her time at Brandeis.

As director of social affairs for the Student Union, Kaplan first met Eddy at the weekly One-Stop meetings they both attended. At the time, she only knew Eddy from these brief weekly interactions, but enjoyed working with her.

“I knew she was really sweet and really great,” she says.

Eddy soon became much more for Kaplan, though. Later that year, in May of ‘07, Eddy would become a source of strength for Kaplan when one of Kaplan’s best friends ended his life. Eddy’s friendship was invaluable for Kaplan while she grieved the loss of her close friend.

“She was my rock and my confidante,” Kaplan says.

That same month, Kaplan was signed up to be an usher at commencement and showed up late to a meeting Eddy was hosting one day. She was nervous because she knew Eddy held her employees to high standards and appreciated punctuality. After the meeting, Eddy called Kaplan over to talk, but it wasn’t to question her about her tardiness. Rather, Eddy gave Kaplan a hug and said, “It’s going to be ok and everything you’re feeling is ok.”

This comment – both comforting and realistic – was exactly what Kaplan needed to hear.

“In that moment I knew that I could talk to her because she really understood where I was coming from and what I was feeling,” Kaplan says. “[With] Jenn, because you know that she’s completely no nonsense, she’s just so easy to talk to because everything was so honest.”

From that moment on, Eddy helped Kaplan through a very difficult time, and Kaplan still appreciates just how “open [Eddy’s] door really is.”

Kaplan says Eddy was always there for her when she needed her: “I always knew that if I needed to talk to her, she would make time in that day for me to talk to her.”

“She’s good at being both committed to her job and getting everything done, but also understanding that sometimes you do need to talk to someone,” Kaplan says.

Eddy’s professional efficiency also allowed her to make time to talk. After all, she’s used to multitasking, and must consider many things when organizing large events, utilizing Brandeis’ resources and employees to their fullest potential.

“You have to be able to multitask and cross your T’s and…dot your I’s,” Eddy says. “Sometimes I can be working on two or three major events at one time.”

Eddy seems at home in this high pressure work environment, but not without having had a lot of practice, and not without having a great team behind her.

“It all seems to come together because we all really work well together,” she says.

Although she’s led a life filled with new ventures, Eddy still insists she’s not that interesting.

“I’m pretty much a Plain Jane,” she says.

In many ways, it all comes back to this modesty with Eddy. Whether it’s talking about herself or her work, Eddy maintains a humble stance and encourages everyone to utilize her department to its fullest.

“We’re here to help anybody that wants to plan an event on campus,” she says. “That’s our job, that’s what we’re here to do; utilize our services. We enjoy doing it.”

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