Meet Ariel Cole
Special Events Manager, Advancement
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in Fairfax, VA and it was wonderful! But I think my family had more to do with that than location. I grew up in a close family with amazing parents, a brother and a sister and close extended family. My grandmother, aunt and cousins all lived in our neighborhood. As a kid it was great!
How long have you worked for Reynolds and have you always been involved with events planning at the college?
I have been at Reynolds for four years now and have been the Special Events Manager from the beginning! Before Reynolds, I was the Assistant Director of University Events at William & Mary.
As Special Events Manager you have a reputation for being extremely detailed, incredibly organized, and always appearing to remain calm in the face of any and every challenge. Does this come naturally to you, or did you have to develop these valuable skills?
I have always been a detailed and organized person, that has come naturally. If it involves file folders and color coding, I’m in!
Remaining and appearing to remain calm in the face of challenges, however, has come with experience. Before higher education, I managed events in several hotels and at Busch Gardens Williamsburg . . . let’s just say working in the hospitality industry will teach you some things! I’ve encountered my fair share of challenging customers (ahem, mother-of-the-brides), inclement weather emergencies, hotel renovations and other obstacles that can impact the success of an event.
I learned three key things:
1. Don’t freak out. It doesn’t help anything.
2. Plan, plan, plan. Plan ahead for different scenarios and everything that you CAN control. This way you will have the time and flexibility to adjust to things that come up that you CAN’T control.
3. You can’t do it alone. I depend on a team of colleagues, vendors and other industry partners for every event that I manage. Building and maintaining good working relationships is essential. I need partners that I can trust to get the job done and who I can call on a moment’s notice if needed.
How many events do you orchestra each year at Reynolds?
Do you have a favorite one, and why?
On average, I am involved with about 50 events each year. My favorite annual event is our Scholarship Luncheon. It is lunch for about 200 scholarship donors and recipients where they get to meet each other. Donors are so excited to meet all the amazing students and learn what they are studying and what they plan to accomplish. The students are equally as eager to express their appreciation - it is a powerful event.
Every year there are also some fun things that pop up – a visit from the Governor, a building grand opening or, my favorite from this year, a presidential inauguration!
What are the most challenging and most
rewarding parts of your job?
I think the most challenging sometimes is letting go and trusting other people to do their part for an event – hard to do for a planner! The most rewarding part is seeing an event go from concept to live event and knowing all the little pieces that had to come together to make it happen.
What is your favorite book or movie, and why?
Too many to choose from! I’m going with one of my childhood classics, Home Alone. My siblings and I were obsessed with it and still quote it to this day. My poor dad had to endure years of Home Alone “traps” in the house.
What is your favorite activity outside of your work at Reynolds?
Love the beach, being outdoors and just spending time with my family. We have a son who is five and a daughter who is one and a half who keep things fun and interesting!
What do like most about Richmond?
Food and craft beer!
If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
Support The Kitchens at Reynolds! I would help my Development team with a major gift to finish the fundraising campaign for The Kitchens. And then pay off the mortgages of everyone in my family, buy my dad a pickup truck that he’s always wanted, and travel!