In this edition of the Behind The Hedges Q&A, we sat down with Director of Event Management Christie Purks. With two degrees from UGA and with her vast experience including serving as the meet director of the 2001 and 2008 NCAA Gymnastics Championships in Athens, Purks has just about seen and done it all in her time in the UGAAA.
BtH: So you're the Director of Event Management - could you take us through your average day?
BtH: Is there no such thing as an average day?
Purks: That would be very true. There's a lot of variety--you can kind of put my job into two categories: one is the daily planning that involves being in the office, drafting memos and having meetings, and then the other portion is when I'm out at the events, at the tennis or basketball court. Those days are more troubleshooting and problem-solving, taking care of issues as they come up as opposed to the planning of the other category.
BtH: Do you have a favorite subpart of either part?
Purks: I like being out of the office. There's a lot of variety, you come in contact with lots of different people. It's not that it's easier, because you're dealing with problems, but I do enjoy being out. I would not do well sitting behind a desk every day, so that's one reason why I've kind of been drawn to this job.
BtH: How did you come to be at UGA?
Purks: I have two degrees from the University--I was a Public Relations major as an undergrad and later got my graduate degree in Sport Administration. I had the good fortune one summer as an undergrad to work for the athletic department as a student intern. That got my foot in the door and gave me the opportunity to meet Lewis Gainey, who at the time was the Assistant Athletic Director for Event Management. When I got done with classes for my graduate degree, I needed an internship to complete the program. Lewis offered one to me helping plan a swimming and diving national championship and, once I was done, offered me a full time job.
BtH: You've coordinated several other national championships across a variety of sports, right?
Purks: I have! I tell students who come talk with me that that's what I consider myself most fortunate for being able to work at Georgia, because we host a lot of postseason events. Many institutions just don't have the resources, either staff-wise or financially, to be able to host these kinds of events, but the University of Georgia has always taken pride in hosting postseason events so I feel like I've actually been given the opportunity to plan big events on a big stage at UGA. Maybe my favorite - well, I shouldn't say favorite - maybe the largest event I've gotten to handle was the 2008 Women's Gymnastics National Championship.
BtH: Which Georgia won.
Purks: We did win, which is always nice.
BtH: When you say it's not your favorite, is it because you have a different one, or because you're not going to pick favorites?
Purks: I won't pick favorites. I've done two gymnastics championships, two swimming and diving national championships, and a tennis one, too. They're all different and unique and come with their own stories. But that one was by far the largest I've had to coordinate and put on.
BtH: What's the hardest part--is it that kind of size and scale?
Purks: That's one part of it--with the gymnastics, we tried very hard to replicate the way it's done at the Olympics, with the gymnasts competing on podiums that had to be constructed from scratch. It brought about lots of different challenges for the facility, we had to build the platforms and rearrange seating in the arena. Way different than a regular season gymnastics meet.
BtH: A lot of tough logistics and planning must go into these events. What's something you like to do to relax, your favorite part of Athens?
Purks: Well, I grew up in Atlanta, so I do like the big city life, but it's replicated really well for scale here. And Athens has a lot of great restaurants, that's definitely my favorite part. But I also went to school here and loved it, and I just feel like I'm one of the fortunate ones who got to hang around.
---By Eliot Beckham