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Meet the audiovisual student workers who bring campus events to life

Lauren Martinek and Zachary Sorel looking at the lighting booth computer.
Alexis Schlesinger / THE GATEPOST

By Adam Levine

Editorial Staff

At most events on campus, attendees can turn toward the back of the room and see the friendly faces of the student workers of Campus Events.

Although they are just one of the four Campus Events departments, the audio and visual team serves as the eyes - for mainly Zoom events - and ears - for any event using a microphone and sound.

Director of Campus Events Autumn Sendzik said her office manages all of the events on campus, ranging from outside rentals to student club meetings.

There are four departments within campus events: reservations, audio and visual, setup, and event service managers, Sendzik said.

She said, “We are primarily staffed by student workers. … They're truly the backbone of the department.”

The audiovisual team is made up of three student workers and one full-time staff member - Audiovisual Technician Lead Felix Mwangi, who is one of just five full-time employees at Campus Events, Sendzik said.

“I don't think a lot of people really realize that most offices here on campus are primarily student staffed. … I think that it's something that the University needs to really shine a light on because we do rely on student help so much,” Sendzik said.

Susan Romani, assistant director of Campus Events, said her main function is to oversee contracts with outside rentals. She said all of the Campus Events departments of student workers play a large role in supporting groups coming from outside of the University.

One of the biggest recurring outside renters is the Mass Ballet, who uses the University to host their production of “The Nutcracker,” Romani said.

She said the student A/V Technicians operate the lighting and sound boards for the productions.

“Felix honestly couldn't do what he does without the support of those three students because … we have one Felix and we have many, many spaces and many events, and everybody wants support. So having that student staff that he can count on is really imperative to him being able to be successful at what he does,” Romani said.

Felix Mwangi said he began working at the University in March 2022 and now manages three A/V student technicians - Em Cohen, Lauren Martinek, and Zachary Sorel.

Mwangi said he first assesses his student workers’ experience and background knowledge of audiovisual work before training them.

He said Campus Events supports events in spaces across campus and each space can have different technology - a mix of microphones, audio mixers, and lighting. 

“Some spaces are much easier than others in terms of the technology. … Some other places have microphones, audio mixers, and lighting,” Mwangi said.

He said having student workers who live on campus makes his job easier.

“Especially if it's an event that doesn't require so much technology support, then they can definitely just run those events,” Mwangi said.

He said his involvement at events varies based on what the client needs.

While some events only require a laptop to be connected to the projector, some require lighting, microphones, and sound technicians, Mwangi said.

He said he typically attends events that require more equipment, but the student workers manage smaller and less demanding events.

“But the good thing is, at this point many of the student techs have already gotten pretty used to the equipment so there are some events - even some of the Hilltop events - that I have just let them run by themselves,” Mwangi said.

He said his workers balance their academics with work, but the time commitment of the job varies based on the clients and number of scheduled events.

Whether or not his student workers plan to pursue a career in A/V, Mwangi said he hopes his workers gain knowledge and become comfortable working with the equipment.

Zachary Sorel, a sophomore environmental science and policy major and biology minor, said they have been a student A/V technician since the Fall 2022 Semester - the beginning of their freshman year.

A typical week requires 10 to 12 hours of work, but that can change based on the number of events scheduled, they said.

Sorel said their training consisted of going to each venue on campus and learning the equipment at each space.

They said they had experience with audiovisual technology from high school, so they only had to learn the equipment specific to the spaces at the University.

Sorel said they helped train the newest A/V technicians this year. “I would say the hardest part was for me trying to break down everything I do step-by-step because I do it so often that it becomes second nature.”

They said the events can be divided into two groups - active and support.

Sorel said active events require the technicians to do audio mixing and light and can include Hilltop shows, hybrid events, or broadcast via Zoom. 

The clients give requests for the audio and lighting, but Sorel said they occasionally use their discretion based on what they think would work best.

Support events are typically lectures or presentations and require the technicians to set up and stay for assistance, they said.

Sorel said working at the Mass Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” is an example of an active event and includes an array of lights and special effects.

They said they prefer working active events. “I really enjoy mixing audio. I love doing lighting.”

Sorel said working at Campus Events has improved their troubleshooting and communications skills, as well as their ability to work under pressure.

These skills are important while communicating with clients, especially if equipment fails or the needs of the event change, they said.

Lauren Martinek, a sophomore environmental science and policy major and American Sign Language minor, said they have been a student A/V technician since August 2023.

Martinek, like Sorel, said their training consisted of going to each venue serviced by Campus Events to learn what each space requires.

They said each space and event has different requirements based on the clients’ needs and the available technology in the space.

Martinek said they have improved their communication, improvisation, and troubleshooting skills since they began working for Campus Events. Their knowledge of audiovisual technology has also grown.

Sorel and Martinek explained the process of preparing and running the audiovisual equipment for a Hilltop performance at DPAC - one of the department’s “active” events.

Martinek said although they do not use DPAC the most, it has the largest scale of equipment and requires the most hands-on operations at shows - fitted with a lighting board, a sound board, a projector, and eight new LED lights installed this summer.

Sorel, who was also the technical director of Hilltop’s most recent performance, said the audiovisual team is roughly 95% prepared for the show by the Wednesday before opening night.

They said they meet with the show’s director the Sunday before the show for a “cue-to-cue” - the rehearsal when the director runs through the show with the A/V staff to program all of the sound and lighting cues onto the boards.

This can take three hours to go through the show and cues may still be changed during the week at the director’s request. 

The audiovisual technicians arrive an hour before the cast members during the rehearsals leading up to the first show for setup and to check in with the director, Sorel said.

They said the team spends about half of the time organizing the microphones and preparing the lighting equipment and the other half being available if the director needs further assistance or has any changes.

Sorel and Martinek said they have a script of the play marked with all of the audio and lighting cues for the show.

Sorel said, “That's kind of where I started - doing theater shows. My favorite [events] would be doing audio mixing for musicals.”

Martinek said they’ve especially enjoyed working at DPAC during drama productions. “That's how I got into my love for audio and visual - I started off at the soundboard in high school. … That's been my favorite so far because it's very intensive, in a good way.

“Overall, I love it. I wish I started earlier and I will be doing it the rest of the time I'm here,” they added.



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