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Industry Update: Person of Interest




By Selena Fragassi

 


Kim Araya is not only an all-American University star but some would say the director of university conference & guest services at the Washington D.C. campus is also at the head of the class of the collegiate conference division. “She’s an industry advocate and has worked hard to forward the goals of our niche market,” says Unique Venues President Chuck Salem of Araya being named the esteemed 2015 Professional of The Year applauding both her proactive nature (such as brokering presentations with meeting organizations to ensure colleges were represented) and her visible presence on industry boards like ACCED-I.

“Kim is one of the most active regional leaders in the history of the association,” continues Salem, “and has a passion that is unparalleled.” Araya’s enthusiasm for her job is clear from the moment she starts talking about her 14-year track record, including what inspired it and where she’s headed. “I love this industry,” she says, “because everybody enjoys their job.” Possibly none more than her.

Unique Venues: Take us back to the beginning—how did you get your start in the industry and what inspires you to keep going?
Kim Araya: “I started at the University of Minnesota as the coordinator of judicial affairs; my prior background was actually in legal and psychiatric professions. At the time, around 2003, University of Minnesota wanted to change how their summer conferences were run and I said, ‘let me do it.’ I loved my time as a hall director at Iowa State University where I oversaw orientations and tours and thought this job would be a good fit. Within two years the university was on the map. I’ll always be a Gopher at heart but I wanted to get back to the D.C. area and applied for the job with American University in 2014, and I’ve tried to apply the same idea here—to expose universities and get the word out. We are a great hidden commodity.”

UV: What are some of the new initiatives you have been behind at American?
KA: “We are definitely changing the way we do things. We have a new meeting space opening up in the fall of 2016 and have started a new group on campus for conference and event partners, which is up to 72 members. We are attracting new speakers like President Obama who was here a few weeks ago and the director of Homeland Security has visited a few times. There are so many great industries in D.C. too, and not just the big groups, so we are really catering to the mid-tier market of 100-500 people, which I see as growing. It’s a good niche for universities because it’s more intimate and everything is right here with inexpensive meals and parking and technology. You can’t go anywhere else in the city for that.”

UV: Are there long-term visions you have for your role?
KA: “One of my current goals is to get a D.C. consortium set up. There are a lot of us and we’re all private. I want Georgetown, Catholic University, George Washington, Trinity, Howard involved with the idea to get all of us together, not to compete against each other but work together to swap spaces when buildings are under construction or refer a group when perhaps a religious-affiliated campus has to turn them away. That’s what I love about our profession: People are so giving and caring and open. Everybody wants everybody else to be successful.”

Get Connected
American University
Washington, D.C.
UniqueVenues.com/AmericanUniv
(202) 885.8247 
Talk to a Venue Specialist: 1-877-244-6110