NSU student squeezes the most from some high profile internships

For most college graduates seeking their first job, relevant experience will likely be replaced by flowery language about work ethic and dedication.

But Northwestern State University senior Leighann Westfall won’t have that problem.

The hospitality management and tourism major in the Louisiana Scholars’ College, interned with the Academy of Country Music awards show this past spring in Los Angeles before her summer internship with the CenturyLink Center in Shreveport.

Westfall wasn’t just on the West Coast rubbing elbows with some of her favorite country music stars — she played a key role in visible features of the show’s production and organization.

“I did the whole signage plan and the transportation for the awards show,” Westfall said. “I organized how artists got from the show to the festival and back to their hotel.

“I worked on the overview schedule throughout my internship as well. On the awards show side, it was just my boss and I. I had real projects and real responsibilities.”

Westfall communicated with artists and their managers to relay show details and schedules.

“In my NSU role working with first-year experience and being a freshman connector, you learn the details of putting on an event — things like how to set up a check-in,” Westfall said. “But I hadn’t interacted with business professionals on that level.

“It was really cool learning how to conduct meetings and phone calls, even write emails professionally.”

The groundwork for the ACM internship was laid at NSU when she and a group of 10 students volunteered at the ACM awards show in Dallas in the spring of 2015.

Westfall worked on the festival side that year, learning the ins and outs of the process while networking with NSU alums Dwayne Jones and Brandi Brammer.

“I knew how the event worked after that experience, and I learned about the series of events that were put on leading up to the awards show,” Westfall said. “We had a weekly operations meeting, and I was able to offer input (in Los Angeles) when some of the other interns couldn’t because I had been a part of those meetings (in Dallas).

“I met my (Los Angeles) boss in Dallas, and people like Dwayne and Brandi (former ACM employees) recommended me and told me what I needed to do to get the internship.”

Westfall’s dream is to be an event planner in the sports entertainment industry, and she transferred her awards show experience into a successful stint with the CenturyLink in Shreveport this past summer.

“Developing a signage plan and an overall plan were pretty similar between the two internships,” Westfall said. “The biggest difference is at an arena, people are coming to you for events. At the ACMs, I was reaching out to people to communicate details and schedules.

“Now I have experience on a few different sides of the entertainment industry.”

The Houston native would love to work for Minute Maid Park or NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans, respectively.

Westfall wished her internships would have been closer to her graduation date so she could have accepted job offers from both places.

But she wouldn’t change anything about her college choice or experience, which she believes has prepared her for future success.

“One of the reasons I came to NSU was because I thought I would be able to get experience in so many different things,” Westfall said. “I’ve had so many roles in Phi Mu, being a freshman connector and with first-year experience.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to do all that at a bigger university.”