MPI/Maritz Scholarship Winner Champions Sustainability

Blog > Industry News

MPI/Maritz Scholarship Winner Champions Sustainability

By Rich Luna | May 23, 2019

Emile Coetzee can thank her mother for getting her into the meeting and event industry.

Coetzee, an honor management student at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa, was honored with the Meeting Professionals International Foundation/Maritz Global Events Student Scholarship Award on Wednesday (22 May) during the IMEX Gala Dinner and Awards ceremony in Frankfurt.

Coetzee, who is one year away from graduation, gave an impressive and polished presentation against five other students in the IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum International University Challenge during IMEX.

Her presentation on food of the future was inspired by a lifelong commitment to sustainability inspired by her mother, Vivia.

“My mom is a greenie,” Coetzee said with a laugh. “Our whole house is sustainable—we have solar panels. She would not plant anything if it was something we couldn’t eat. She would yank a weed out of the ground, look at it and say it’s edible.

“So, as a little girl, I was always interested in wildlife and nature and it became a passion of mine. I knew I always wanted a career in sustainability. If I could work in eco-tourism, I would be more than happy.”

The award celebrates and supports the next generation of meeting industry professionals. As part of the award, Coatzee has the option of attending MPI’s World Education Congress (WEC), June 15-18 in Toronto, or MPI’s European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC) next February in Sevilla, Spain. She said Thursday she is still deciding what to do.

Regional winners from six selected forums advance to compete in the University Challenge final in Frankfurt for the grand prize, sponsored by the MPI Foundation and Maritz Global Events.

Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of MPI, introduced the award and recognized Coetzee on stage along with Ray Bloom, chair of the IMEX Group. She was then congratulated by Steve O’Malley, president of MPI’s International Board of Directors; Carole McKellar, chair of the MPI Foundation’s Global Board of Trustees; and Kevin Kirby, executive director of the Foundation.

All six student finalists were given the same challenge: What would be the food of the future to feed a conference of 1,000 attendees? The participants had to act as meeting planner and talk all aspects of planning an event, including logistics, budget and other factors. They also had to develop a sound financial plan.

“I wanted something that would make people think about sustainability and food waste,” Coatzee said. “I was thinking about the forbidden fruit; it was such a catchy subject. No one talks about what is the food of the future, but everyone always wants to be healthier in what they eat.”

Coetzee said she felt a little bit of pressure to do well since North-West University has produced previous winners of the FLF challenge.

“My professor, Pierre Andre Viviers, definitely inspires us,” she said. “He motivates us and inspires us to do better. Everyone here had good ideas and I learned something from all of them. If you looked at the competition, I really didn’t think I would win. But this puts a lot of pride into our community. Hard work does pay off.”

Coetzee has been working as a student assistant and tutor and would like to develop sustainability projects in her home country.

“South Africa is still transforming,” she said. “I would like to be involved in projects that look at how we handle trash and waste recycling. There’s so much awareness and education that needs to be done. IMEX was an eye-opener in this way with all the things they do here to recycle, like the badges and water bottles. I would love to bring things like that to my home.”

Other industry professionals honored at the IMEX Gala in Frankfurt as part of IMEX, the annual four-day worldwide meetings and incentive travel exhibition event, included:

  • Destinations International Global Ambassador Award, presented by Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International—Tammy Blount-Canavan, president and CEO, Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  • IAEE International Excellence Award, presented by David DuBois, president and CEO of IAEE—CES (Shanghai) Exhibition Co., Ltd., the team behind CES Asia.
  • IAPCO Innovation Award, presented by IAPCO President Mathias Posch—Colloquium from France.
  • JMIC Unity Award, presented by JMIC President Kai Hattendorf—Joachim König, director of the Hannover Congress Centrum.
  • PCMA Global Meetings Executive of the Year Award, presented by Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO of PCMA—Carola van der Hoeff, COO and congress director of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).
  • Jane E. Schuldt SITE Master Motivator Award, presented by Didier Scaillet, CEO at SITE—Rhonda Brewer, vice president of sales for North America of BCD Meetings and Events.
  • IMEX-EIC Innovation in Sustainability Award, presented by Amy Calvert, CEO of the Events Industry Council—Global Climate Action Summit, Jeffrey Wexler, COO, and Jaime Nack, head of sustainability.
  • Paul Flackett IMEX Academy Awards, named in tribute to the former managing director of IMEX—Roslyn McLeod, found and chair, ARINEX; Madelyn Marusa, DMCP, CIS, VP of industry relations and strategic initiatives, PRA Business Events Inc.; Heike Mahmoud, chief operating officer, Congress Center Hamburg.


Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.