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A Day of Collaboration and Connection with Chicago Ideas Week

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By Darcy Heinrichs

Every October, hundreds of visionaries, activists, and other thought leaders from around the globe come to Chicago to celebrate the only thing with the power to change a single person’s life or the entire world: ideas. Chicago Ideas Week is a week-long, world-class festival organized by the nonprofit Chicago Ideas, and DePaul University was the only university this year to get involved. As a PR initiative, DePaul sponsored a panel on social activism and hosted an interactive, behind-the-scenes tour of Wintrust Arena led by the arena’s architects and DePaul’s vice president of facilities operations. Because I’m the strategic communications intern at DePaul’s Office of PR and Communications (and am the only person under the age of 30), I was deemed the social media expert and given the immense responsibility of covering the Wintrust Tour on Snapchat. This is my story.

Arriving at the office around 10 a.m., I make a beeline to the Keurig, knowing caffeine–and lots of it–is the only thing capable of turning my typically mellow demeanor into the peppy enthusiasm needed to take over the official DePaul University Snapchat for a day. Mug in hand, I speed to my desk to finish drafting the day’s social media agenda, likely leaving a trail of coffee-drip stains on the already-hideous turquoise carpet. (Turquoise, really?)

My fingers fly furiously across the keyboard to complete the day’s social media plans for DePaul Newsroom, DePaul Newsline, and the university’s Enrollment Management and Marketing Department accounts. I blink, and it’s already 11:20 a.m. Scheduled to leave the office at 11:30 a.m., I down the rest of my coffee, pack up my things and help the office’s executive assistant, Chantilly, load bakery and DePaul merch items into a cab. Once at Wintrust, we carry everything to the green room, where we meet the office manager, Melissa, and the office’s vice president, Linda. We all begin assembling complimentary gifts for event attendees and setting up the green room refreshments, guided by Linda’s wise maxim: What would Ina Garten do?

Watching the clock, we touch base with the Wintrust facilities managers and the Chicago Ideas volunteers. Everything is on schedule and going smoothly. Soon, all the attendees and press people filter into the building and the tour begins. The tour’s exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the arena is perfect for Snapchat content. iPhone in hand, I follow closely behind the crowd as we make our way through the DIBS Hospitality Club (complete with cash bar), the locker rooms (complete with personalized, backlit lockers), the weight room (complete with every exercise machine known to man), the coaches lounge (complete with sofas and a flatscreen TV), and the glossy hardwood basketball court (complete with 30 sweaty Division I basketball players).

Things really start getting fun as I snap the event attendees on the court shooting hoops with the basketball team. Deciding the state-of-the-art arena he designed wasn’t impressive enough, 5’5” architect Mitchell Hirsch swishes several 3-pointers. The basketball team goes wild.

As the event comes to a close, my supervisor tells me I can head back to the office and thanks me for my hard work, though it didn’t feel like work at all. With my phone nearing death and my Ventra in my pocket, I start toward the Cermak-McCormick Place station–just a short two-block walk.

Trekking up the stairs to the train platform, I recognize a press woman from the event and ask her if she enjoyed it. She proceeds to tell me she works for Edelman–just the world’s largest PR firm and my dream employer, no big deal. I turn on the soon-graduate-to-be charm and we exchange contact information while talking about her work with Edelman, my PR experience/interests, and our shared contacts until the train, crowded with Cubs fans, arrives. We then continue the conversation, without the luxury of personal space, and agree to get coffee soon. As I say goodbye and exit the train, I can’t help but smile because DePaul’s Chicago Ideas event was successful in more ways than one.

ALL PHOTOS BY JEFF CARRION/DEPAUL UNIVERSITY

Chicago Ideas Week may focus on inspiration and innovation, but at the end of the day, none of the ideas would be possible without the people who first imagine them. Working Chicago Ideas Week proved that collaborating with those of diverse interests, goals, and careers leads to new experiences, contacts, and connections. No imagination required.

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