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Debbie Aleff received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communicating Arts upon graduation from UW-Superior in 1994. Along with this degree, she also pursued her love for the theatre and earned a minor in Theatre Management. Aleff eventually was able to find her career niche in the local area, and she now works as the Director of Ticketing at the Duluth Entertainment & Convention Center (DECC).
Aleff started off her schooling by taking classes for people who were just beginning to learn acting. This is where she got an unusual piece of feedback that actually could be credited for jumpstarting her career. She was told quite bluntly, "You can't act!" With such a love for the theatre, she easily could have been crushed by this comment. However, instead of being disheartened by the criticism, Aleff realized that acting was not her calling, and she re-routed her involvement in the theatre away from acting and more towards the management side of things. This was just the start of what would turn into a great career opportunity.
Fortunately for Aleff, she had an inspiring mentor to help her along her way. A now-retired UW-Superior professor, John Munsell, realized her potential and offered her the position of working in the box office at the school. This experience in the box office opened her eyes to what she was truly passionate about, which was not acting but rather working with "the front of the house." Munsell continued to guide her along, and he even developed a position for her as the Assistant to the Artistic Director for which she received credits for graduation. This position required her to assist in teaching the Theatre Management class alongside Professor Munsell, as well as doing a variety of other jobs for the box office, guest services, marketing and public relations, and the theatre department itself. This work on campus allowed her to build upon her experiences which in turn helped her to build up her resume as well.
Following graduation from UW-Superior, Aleff headed to Door County, WI, where she used her work experience from college to gain employment at a Summer Stock Theater. She knew that in order to reach her goal career it was necessary for her to gain this field experience. After spending some time in Door County, Aleff was able to apply for higher job positions, which eventually brought her back to Duluth, MN, where she began her work at the DECC.
As the Director of Ticketing, Aleff has many jobs to attend to on a daily basis. Though she often works on the computer, mainly through the Ticketmaster system or on the DECC's Facebook page, she also works with other staff members or promoters by helping them to advertise for the upcoming events. This requires her to attend regular meetings and conferences. Aleff not only has all of her own tasks to accomplish, but she also has the responsibility of managing 10-12 other employees.
With all of these jobs to manage, Aleff admits that the job can be very stressful and demanding. Since there are events taking place every time of the year, she often has to work nights, weekends, and even on the holidays. Though this is a challenging aspect added into her personal life, there is a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time, and the show must go on. In order to be successful at her job, the main things that she feels she must be proficient in is being able to prioritize her schedule and knowing how to multi-task. She feels it is also important to have a good sense of humor and plenty of patience. Despite all the time and effort that goes into the job, Aleff still loves it. When reflecting about her job, she remarks, "It can be challenging and stressful at times, but it is a very cool ride. You get to meet so many people, artists, band members, and see some great shows." The fact that her day is always changing prevents her from ever getting bored with her work.
For students looking to move into this type of work field, there is now a Theatre Management program offered at UW-Superior that was not available when Aleff herself was at the university. However, one of the courses at the school that she does recommend for all students is Beginning Acting. Even those who are not interested in pursuing a career within the theatre can benefit from this class. She explains that it encourages people to overcome their shyness by having to open up and talk to other people. It not only builds communication skills, but it also boosts confidence levels in a fun and unique way.
Aleff knows that having a four-year degree will provide a better chance of achieving a certain job compared to those with just work within the field, but she also stresses the importance of experience. In her opinion, "experience far outweighs education in this field." If more opportunities are taken, more opportunities will open up, which will allow for a broader selection of career possibilities.
Debbie Aleff was interviewed as a part of the Career Services Day in the Life project. Her full interview and those of other UW-Superior alumni can be found on the Day in the Life website, http://www.uwsuper.edu/career/students/a-day-in-the-life.cfm.
Interview conducted by Jessica Schlauderaff on May 5, 2012. Article written by Kristen Jasperson.
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