South Beach Wine & Food FIU Student Interview: Caroline Karlberg

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Last year, the more than $2 million generated by the South Beach Wine & Food Fest was handed directly to FIU. The university has been a partner in the event with Southern Wine & Spirits since the beginning and has continued to reap the ever-growing rewards of its wise investment.

Of course, the school's involvement also benefits the students of its hospitality management program. They get the unique opportunity to do all the hard work of making the festival happen, which is a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

We recently traded emails with Caroline Karlberg, assistant activation coordinator and right-hand woman to lady-in-charge Susan Gladstone. Here's what she had to say about working the South Beach Wine & Food Fest:

What is your background, what year are you in (in your FIU studies), and what are you studying at FIU?

I am in my second year (and final semester) of graduate school at FIU. I am working towards my master's in hospitality management. My background is in business and finance, however. I got my undergraduate degree in business administration at Bucknell University in 2006 and then spent two years working at Goldman Sachs in NYC before I decided to make a career change and come back to school.

How did you get involved with the festival, and how many have you worked on?

This is my second festival. One of the reasons I came to FIU was because I knew they were involved with the festival and it was something I definitely wanted to be a part of. During my first week of classes last fall [2008], I asked around to find out who I needed to talk to in order to get involved. When I found out where the office was, I just started stopping by whenever I could. Even though they already had a full staff, I think I hung around long enough and made my presence known enough that they eventually gave me something to do!

What is your role in this year's festival?

This year I am the "assistant activation coordinator." I work with Susan Gladstone, festival activation director, to help the event sponsors [in the Grand Tasting Village] activate their space.

Do you have any funny South Beach Wine & Food Fest or FIU stories?

Last year, I was driving on the Beach in one of our golf carts and I was almost run into by another golf cart (almost -- close call!). I'm not sure who was driving it, but the passenger was none other than Bobby Flay! I think if I ever get the chance to meet him, I'll tell him that story and see if he remembers me!

What are you looking forward to with this year's fest?

Since last year was my first festival, I didn't really know what to expect and I spent a lot of time just taking it all in. I felt somewhat overwhelmed by how huge it was! This year, I am more prepared, and I know what I've gotten myself into, so I am looking forward to feeling like I know what I'm doing once we get on site.

What's in your future and how has your work with SBWFF prepared you for it?

Though I can't say for sure what I'll be doing when I graduate in April, I know that working for the SBWFF has done a lot to prepare me in terms of working with a lot of different people on a lot of different moving parts in order to put something absolutely amazing together.

Visit hospitality.fiu.edu/sobe for more information.

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