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She didn’t plan for this … but she’ll take it

How one woman used her know-how, humor and chutzpah to revolutionize the meeting planning profession, earning herself a spot among industry titans.

October 17, 2016

Daniel J Vaccaro

In acting, there is the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. In sports, there is the Hall of Fame. And in the event and meeting planning profession, there is the Convention Industry Council Hall of Leaders.

On Oct. 18 in Las Vegas, Carol Krugman will join the elite ranks of her profession as one of five inductees into the CIC Hall of Leaders.

“To be honored in this way, to hear all the nice things people have to say – is very humbling, and satisfying,” she said. “It’s also a little like reading your eulogy without having to die first.”

That’s Krugman – the self-deprecating humor, trademark New York accent and an irrepressible energy that has made her a legend in the industry for more than 30 years.

But Krugman says she didn’t aspire to be a professional meeting planner.

“When people of my generation started in careers, meeting planning was not even a profession,” she said. “This was in the 1970s. There was no formal education for that type of career. Meetings were planned by secretaries or whoever had the time.”

Krugman worked in business instead, first in public relations, and then in marketing for an international pharmaceutical company. In that role, she started organizing internal meetings, then got into larger external meetings, and soon found that she was enjoying that part of her work more than anything else. She got so good at it that her next job focused exclusively on planning meetings and events.

By the 1990s, Krugman had developed a reputation as one of a few U.S.-based experts in international meeting planning. In 1995, she joined Meeting Professionals International, the organization that would ultimately nominate her for the Hall of Leaders.

“Over the course of the next 20 years of presentations, workshops, trade articles, interviews, authoring a textbook and participating in major industry educational events around the globe, Carol’s name became synonymous with global meeting Carol Krugman operations and cross-cultural planning expertise,” said Paul Van Deventer, MPI president and CEO, in the nomination application.

Krugman has lived and worked in countries around the world, having even owned a medical communications agency in Brazil. She is fluent in four-and-a-half languages – English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and “enough Italian to get you in and me out of jail.”

Beyond her work in the international arena, Krugman was a trailblazer in raising awareness about the importance of risk assessment, contingency planning and crisis management, aspects of the profession that rose to prominence in the aftermath of 9/11. These are now essential considerations at any major meeting or event.

During the course of her career, Krugman discovered a love for sharing her expertise with others through teaching, which ultimately led her to higher education.

She joined the faculty at Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2009. By 2014, she was chair of the Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events.

“As a colleague, Carol provides leadership, inspiration and vision. She is the best department chair I’ve worked with,” said Jackson Lamb, associate professor in the HTE program. “And she is adored by the students.”

She is so beloved, in fact, that students have taken to calling her Mighty Mouse, thanks to her high-energy, short stature and ability to get things done. An affiliate faculty colleague presented her with a shirt depicting the famed rodent, which she proudly displays in her office.

“Given the span of my career to date, I am most proud of where I am and what this department is doing right now,” she said. “We are doing important work here that addresses a real need in the industry.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of meeting, convention and event planners is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

Krugman and her faculty team have addressed the need for trained professionals by developing a Bachelor of Science in Event and Meeting Management, which debuted in the fall 2016 semester.

With the addition of the degree, MSU Denver’s HTE program became one of only four in the country to offer a standalone baccalaureate degree in event and meeting management. And it is the only one with a curriculum based on global industry benchmarks established in 2011, according to Krugman.

The fact that Krugman is providing education and professional training to students, something she was not able to study when she was in school, is not lost on her.

“I can look back 30 years to see where this profession came from, but I can also look forward and see where it is going. To have been a part of developing some of the major building blocks for the profession and now to be in the fortunate position of educating others in a recognized and growing field is really remarkable.”