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Wagner has spent over 15 years in the financial services sector, working at Robinson-Humphrey/Smith Barney, a subsidiary of Citigroup, and over 20 years in the meetings and events industry. While most people earn a single degree, that doesn’t apply to her: She received her bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant, and tourism from the University of South Carolina, then went on to complete her international hotel management certification at the Kempinski Hotel in Berlin. Then she received a second bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, specializing in industrial organizational psychology.

EVOLUTION At SunTrust, Wagner started the meetings and events department from scratch. She then hired 2011 Changemaker Amy Harris, CMP, SMMC, vice president, strategic meetings management, and they jointly created a business case for an SMMP, again from the ground up, spearheading executive buy-in and obtaining the budget to build it out.
She was then asked to get involved in the hospitality and guest experience side of the company’s motorsport sponsorships, which included Grand American Road Racing and NASCAR. “My role morphed more into sponsorship and event marketing for this group, which is now one of the most successful groups of its kind in the U.S.”

ADVICE Wagner says she’s “always happy to speak with anyone considering this career path. I would advise anyone coming in to view the meetings and events industry as a business-driving vehicle, as a marketing arm/tool, that is gaining ever more traction around the world. It will allow you to travel the world and work in many vertical industries. And the skills you learn are highly transferable.”

LOOKING AHEAD Her next focus is to apply oversight to the company’s incentive programs, “evolving the direction, look, and feel of them. … That’s still a work still in progress,” she says.

GIVING BACK Wagner is a model of giving back to the industry, and is involved in multiple associations and initiatives. She spent two years on the MPI international board of directors, one of them on the executive committee. She was a part of the team that put together the first international benchmark for event management with the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council. These standards are applied to event management curriculum benchmarks worldwide. She co-led the education committee for the Southeast chapter of Site, helping to create an education program that enabled the chapter to win Chapter of the Year in just its second year of existence. (She is now a 2012 member of that chapter’s board of directors.) And she also recently served on a joint project between MPI and the Canadian Tourism Office to develop a meetings industry standard body of knowledge (known as MBECS). - Barbara Scofidio