Meet Kevin Ulestad
Director, Assembly Hall
How long have you been working in your current position? In Student Affairs?
Twenty years in the business; previous positions include Promotions Coordinator at Iowa State Center and Marketing Director in Des Moines.
What is your educational background?
B.A., U. of Northern Iowa, promotions with a minor in marketing and journalism; received IAAM Certified Facilities Executive (CFE) certification.
Why did you come to the University of Illinois?
The reputation of the facility in the industry and how it relates to the community and the students. The Assembly Hall is seen in the industry as being a nationally known facility with a storied background of bringing in multiple national talent as well as being the home for the men's and women's basketball program. I wanted to get back into the collegiate mode and it was a great opportunity.
How did you get interested in the Student Affairs profession?
I enjoyed the relationship that the facility had in Iowa State with Student Affairs - it also was an auxiliary unit. It works with the students and the athletic department and attracts national talent as well. That's what made it appealing to come to Illinois; the Assembly Hall serves a dual purpose in being a part of the lives of students as well as the community.
What is one piece of advice you have for students?
Don't be content with just the degree. I'm the advisor for Star Course, a registered student organization that brings shows to campus. What I've noticed is that students who get involved are the ones who are becoming leaders and have success after college. Whether it is something you want to get into for the career or not, it's important to have the experience of being involved with an organization or club. It helps to complete your student life. With Star Course, students have fun, learn a lot, and years later still talk about the recurring benefits from having been involved.
What is your favorite part of your job?
We deal with events - half a million people come through our doors each year. We do 80-90 events each year. Of those, 28-30 are national touring shows, 32-35 are basketball games, and the rest are events such as convocation, graduation, and so on. Even after 20 years I still find it exciting to see shows getting booked and seeing them come through - whether it's Alan Jackson, Dave Mathews, or the Broadway series - as well as the basketball season. It's great seeing the students come through our building and leaving happy. That's the driving force that runs the business - to see people leaving the facility happy. The students are taking a break from regular life when coming here and we want to make sure that their experience is memorable and they have a good time.
What have you gained or learned from your time at the University of Illinois?
Don't be afraid of change. Change is inevitable. In this business, things change on a monthly basis. Realizing that we shouldn't be afraid of change is what the campus is moving towards. We're 55% reliant on bringing in revenue from outside shows so we have to stay in touch with what's going on in the industry, an industry which is evolving and changing on daily. We shouldn't be afraid of change but should grasp it and be part of it in a progressive mode.
What is your best memory in your career?
We're quite proud of and very pleased with the back stage $12 million renovation that took place 6 years ago, which was approved by a student referendum. We could not do many of the shows we're doing right now if it were not for that renovation. That's a big accomplishment that we're all very proud of, and we're very thankful to students for making that happen.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I believe success breeds success. We had record-breaking success in the past few years but we're not going to be able to break records every year. The challenge comes in maintaining what we've done in previous years.
What do you do to relax after a stressful day?
I'm a big family man. I have a beautiful wife and 3 great children who I want to spend time with. I realize that the time spent with them is precious. I coach soccer and currently coach the soccer program at the Champaign Park District. I'm now taking my second child through the program.
Where could students find you when you're not at the office?
I'm with my family. We enjoy boating, skiing and we usually try to get away to the lake. I enjoy sports, watching and seeing my kids participating.
2013 Award Recipients