Sarah Klavas

Wisconsin’s tourism industry offers loads of fun, and the state’s deputy director of tourism, Sarah Klavas, counts herself fortunate that it’s her job to promote it.

HEM student Jenny Gross was one of the moderators for the Executive on Campus event.

In her role, Klavas is charged with utilizing the department’s $15 million budget to market the state’s “fun,” and on Monday morning, Oct. 1, she visited Concordia University Wisconsin’s campus to share her decades of experience with CUW students.

“I’m passionate about young people who are interested in the marketing industry, but especially hospitality,” Klavas said. “Figuring out how I can give back to people at the beginning of their careers means everything to me.”

Klavas was the featured speaker of the Executive on Campus event, which annually draws industry leaders to campus to share their insights with students in the Sport and Entertainment Business and Hospitality and Event Management programs.

The morning event gave students the chance to network with Klavas, and then, following a social hour, Klavas answered questions from moderators Professor David Snieg and HEM student Jenny Gross.

Klavas shared her insights on the biggest changes and challenges she’s seen over the past 30 years, the future prospect for Wisconsin’s tourism industry, and how she balances her work and personal life. Among her responses, Klavas touted the success of her department’s efforts, sharing that in 2017, Wisconsin received 105 million visits, and that for every $1 of marketing dollars spent, there is a $7 return on investment for the state’s economy, according to studies conducted by her office.

She also left students who attended with a piece of advice: “Keep your mind open and your heart wide open and take advantage of opportunities that come your way,” sharing that her early professional life included a stint as the Midwest’s first female sports broadcaster.

“You may not end up doing the same thing that you thought you’d be doing in terms of your work,” Klavas said. “Take advantage of opportunities that come your way and be sure to cultivate opportunities for yourself. Everything you do in life will ladder up to your success. Everything you do will help you build into who you will ultimately become.”

Learn more about Concordia’s Hospitality and Event Management program here and Sport and Entertainment Business program here.

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at or 262-243-2149.

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