Orange County Convention Center

Helen Brett Scholarship

Each year, scholarships are awarded to individuals who are exploring the study of exhibition management with the end goal of advancing their careers in this field.

Scholarship Application

How the Scholarship Helps Students

Kateryna Serhiyenko

“I’m so grateful for an amazing experience I received as a result of being awarded the IAEE 2019 Helen Brett Scholarship. Thank you for making my dreams come true, since I’ve always wanted to experience the expo with my own eyes. In December 2019, I had the opportunity to attend Expo! Expo! in Las Vegas. Even though I couldn’t stay for the whole event, I still was exposed to a lot of things. First of all, I was able to shadow the event planning team and participate in the brainstorming of some last-minute changes before the event. I was privileged to work at the registration stand for one of the education sessions as well as on the show floor. What is more amazing, I had the chance to visit the show floor, shake hands of exhibitors, work in the international area as well as attend networking events and educational sessions. Due to the careful planning of IAEE team, I’ve experienced everything, even a behind-the-scenes Mandalay Bay tour. I’m so grateful for such an amazing opportunity and I recommend all students who’re interested in the exhibitions industry to apply for the scholarship. It’s definitely a life-time experience!”

2019 Scholarship Recipients

Stephanie Bias

Stephanie Bias is a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Event Management at Iowa State University. Stephanie chose to pursue a career in events because she observed various opportunities for personal and professional growth in this diverse, competitive industry. Stephanie is specifically interested in the design of exhibitions, weddings and food festivals.

“I like that the execution of an event requires the balance of many different facets such as marketing, project management, vendor relations, human resource management and event design,” Stephanie explained. “I know that this career will challenge me to explore my different interests and refine my skills.”

Stephanie has always believed that events are catalysts for change. She first became interested in event planning when she designed an award show in high school for the yearbook’s superlative winners. After her idea was approved, she was given the opportunity to design and direct the show. Even after Stephanie’s graduation in 2016, the award show remains a highly-anticipated annual school tradition.

While Stephanie has designed various events, her interest in exhibitions was sparked by a recent opportunity to work at a bridal exhibition in Des Moines, Iowa.

“This was my first industry experience with exhibitions and I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with vendors and directing guests,” Stephanie said. “I observed that both suppliers and consumers left the exhibition with new industry contacts, sales, services, and ideas.”

Stephanie’s interests in events also translates to her academic pursuits, and she is enrolled in the University’s Honors Program where she conducts research on vegan food festivals. She also serves as the President of the Ethical Eating Club, and her responsibilities include organizing bi-monthly meetings, fundraising events, and activism opportunities.

Stephanie will graduate in May of 2020 from Iowa State University. After graduation, Stephanie plans to pursue a career in bridal exhibitions, and in the future, hopes to launch an event venue business with her family. Stephanie is also interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in either Project Management or Business Administration.

“It’s human nature to celebrate, and I love that events bring people together in such a special way,” Stephanie said. “I am excited to enter this fast-paced industry, and I would like to thank IAEE for supporting my academic pursuits with this fantastic scholarship opportunity.”


Danielle Elliott

Danielle is a sophomore pursuing a degree in Event Management with minors in Business and Journalism at Iowa State University. Once Danielle learned about the career possibility of being an Event Planner, she knew it was the perfect fit for her. She has always been a well-organized person who loves to use her creative and time management skills.

At Iowa State, Danielle is a member of the Event Management Club on campus as the Fundraising Chair. She is also on the committee responsible for planning the first Event Management Industry Meet and Greet for all students interested in being connected to employers in that industry. Danielle is a member of the Winterfest Executive Team as the Event Coordinator. She and the other committee members plan one of the largest events on campus: a free, family-friendly holiday celebration the Friday before dead week in the fall semester.

Other organizations Danielle is a part of include ISU’s Dance Marathon for the Children’s Miracle Network and a college ministry group called Kairos. She has found ways within both of those organizations to use her event planning skills and help prepare herself for the future as she also makes a difference for others in her community.

During the spring 2019 semester, Danielle had an internship at the Boone County Chamber of Commerce where she was able to get some real first-hand event experience. From local community events to advertising for the local tourism, Danielle was a great addition to the chamber. She broadened her skill set and was able to stay on part-time over the summer. This fall she will be working as an intern for Iowa State’s Athletic Department in the Events Department. Danielle will help with game-day set-up, operations, and tear-down for all of the Cyclone’s home football games.

After Danielle graduates in December of 2021, she hopes to pursue a career in either the sports and entertainment or the non-profit side of the events industry. “I hope I am able to make a difference wherever I end up with the events I am able to help put together. Helen Brett is a great role model as a young woman starting her career. I feel so honored to have received this scholarship award in her name.”


Rita Ellis

Rita Ellis is an Event Management major at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. She has a passion for creating, producing, and managing events and is greatly looking forward to working in the exhibitions and events industry. Her dream is to become an event planner, or planner/manager of conventions, exhibitions and tradeshows. Ever since Rita was a young girl, she has had a passion for executing events that create memories to last a lifetime. She believes that one thing we all have in common regardless of our background is the pursuit of happiness and that it is the common thread that binds us all together. Rita’s passion for events sprouted from her volunteer work at Maureen’s Haven Homeless Shelter. She has been volunteering at the shelter for seven years and describes the satisfaction from planning and coordinating themed events as unequalled.

Rita is enrolled in the Honors Program and Accelerated Degree program and has maintained a 4.0 GPA thus far at Johnson & Wales University. She is an active member of the Live Events Association, the student-run International Exhibitions & Events Club, as well as the Student Advisory Council for the College of Hospitality Management. Rita continues to give back to her community through her work with charitable events, such as Gloria Gemma’s “Flames of Hope,” an annual fundraiser in Providence, Rhode Island. This October will be Rita’s third year working to host “Taste of Hope”, a specialty food and wine event for Breast Cancer patients, survivors, and all supporters. She says “It is the best of both worlds because I am helping plan and execute an amazing event that simultaneously raises money for a charitable organization. This real-life, hands-on experience will build my knowledge in the exhibitions and events industry.” She feels strongly that any act of kindness is what makes the world a better place.

I wish to follow in Helen Brett’s footsteps and create opportunities for emerging relationships of integrity and trust between customers and exhibitors. I aspire to be like Helen Brett throughout my career. It is a true inspiration the way she was able to turn a random act of kindness into a lifelong legacy of success and development in the exhibitions and events industry. Rita says, “Thank you to the Helen Brett Scholarship Committee for awarding me with this scholarship. I am truly humbled and grateful.”


Lily Sweet King

Lily Sweet King is a rising sophomore at the University of Mississippi in Oxford majoring in Hospitality Management and Integrated Marketing Communications, with minors in Business Administration and Digital Design. She is exploring event planning and sports marketing as a possible career path.

Lily Sweet is involved in several campus activities including Cru, Pi Beta Phi sorority, and volunteering each week at a local elementary school reading to first graders. She also volunteers with local event planning companies to gain experience in the field. This fall, she is working with the Chancellor’s Office to host The Longest Table on the Grove to celebrate Ole Miss’ amazing diversity of talent, ethnicity, religion, geography, and intellect on campus. She created and hosted the event at her high school in Tallahassee, Florida, and it continues today. The Longest Table at Ole Miss will be the first event of its kind on a college campus.

When she is not studying or volunteering, Lily Sweet enjoys following Ole Miss sports and Alabama football.


Madelyn McGeary

Madelyn (Maddie) McGeary returns to the Hart School of Hospitality Management at James Madison University (JMU) this fall as a senior.

Her interest in the hospitality industry is multi-faceted, as is her industry experience.  A product of the events business, she grew up with a grandmother and mom deeply steeped in corporate events and community affairs.  She has often remarked that when her grade school friends were cheering because they were getting out of class early so that the parents could decorate the gym for the annual fundraising gala, she was cheering because she knew her mom was part of the planning committee and that she could go down and help with the preparations.  Like her mom and her grandmother, she loves to create experiences for people.  The beauty of the exhibitions/events industry, for someone like Maddie, is that the planning and execution of each event incorporates all aspects of the hospitality industry. Today’s tradeshow or event attendees are most inspired or motivated by the show’s culture and offer of what the show will do for them.

In college, at JMU, she jumped right into sorority life as a Kappa Alpha Theta and shortly thereafter joined PCMA for inclusion in activities relating to my hospitality major. As a sophomore, she served as the head of Philanthropy for Theta, liaising between the sorority and their chosen non-profit (Court Appointed Child Advocates-CASA) and planning events to financially support the organization. In the fall of sophomore year, Maddie was awarded a scholarship that included paid attendance to the PCMA convening leaders conference in Nashville, TN, and was Chair of the PCMA Leadership Conference on JMU’s campus, overseeing a committee of 8 organizers.

In her Junior year, she served as Chief Administrative Officer for Theta, in charge of planning officer transitions and the on-campus leadership meeting, as well as the travel and schedule of visiting Theta advisors to the campus. Attempting to round out her event knowledge, she accepted a 3-month internship at The Hotel Madison where she prepared a sales and marketing analysis of competing area hotels, assisted with banquets and gained insight into “back of house” operations. Again, awarded the PCMA scholarship, she traveled to Pittsburgh, PA, for that year’s Convening Leaders Conference. This summer she took an internship at Union Square Events in New York City, assisting with the planning and implementation of their events throughout the city.

In her senior year, she will eagerly take on the position of President of PCMA at JMU.


Kimberly Schmerbach

Kimberly is a rising senior at Iowa State University studying Event Management with a minor in business. She worked as an Event Operations Intern at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown this summer and received multiple awards, such as the Daymaker Award and Artist of the Week. During her time at Marriott, she worked quite a few exhibitions and had a chance to experience what it takes to plan them. During the school year, Kimberly will be working for the Iowa State Center as a Conference Services Intern planning a variety of events throughout the next two semesters. She is excited to be starting her senior year at Iowa State as the president of the Event Management Club. She is also looking forward to being a founding member of Iowa State’s PCMA chapter. Throughout her time at Iowa State, Kimberly has been grateful for the opportunities she has been given to further her education and experience in the events industry.

“It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I discovered my passion for the events industry. I was on the planning committee for our high school’s Dance Marathon, and it was through this event that I realized what my true passion and skills were. I enjoyed all the details and organization that came along with planning the event, and I also realized how rewarding of a field events is since you are able to make such a big impact on some many people.”

As mentioned, Kimberly is entering her last year at Iowa State University and will be graduating in May of 2020. She has accepted a job with Marriott as an Event Operations Voyager which is a global leadership development program. She is very thankful to have received the Helen Brett Scholarship and is grateful for the tuition assistance and opportunities to become more involved with IAEE.


Kateryna Serhiyenko

Kateryna is a senior obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Event Management at the University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management. She got her first degree in International Economy at Kyiv National Economic University in 2018. Being an international student from Ukraine, Kateryna came to one of the most significant hospitality cities in the U.S., Orlando, two years ago and absolutely loved it.

She’s currently working as an Event Manager at the University of Central Florida Student Union where she oversees over 100 employees of a setup crew. While working there, she obtained the 1st rank in a work competition for bringing new ideas concerning communication between departments and improving team building activities. She’s also working as a Sales Intern at MasterCorp Inc. Kateryna enjoys being emerged into a high-pasted environment and solve challenges during events.

Kateryna is a mentor in the Rosen College Peer Outreach Mentorship Program, a Dean’s Student Ambassador in the Rosen College Leadership Council and a member of SKAL, IAEE, MPI Knights/Orlando where she serves on the Educational and Special Events Committees. Within the Rosen College Leadership Council, Kateryna founded an “International Chat” event which she facilitates every semester to assist and further the experience of Rosen College international students. Kateryna has involved herself in many enriching extra-curricular activities all while maintaining an exceptionally high GPA (3.98).

Kateryna is graduating in May 2020 and plans to work as a show manager at a trade show as well as explore innovational technologies that can be implemented in this industry. Later on, she would like to explore different positions within trade show departments so that she can open her own trade show company in the future. She is very grateful for receiving the Helen Brett Scholarship this year, as well as an opportunity to attend the trade show.

Yu (John) Ye

Yu (John) Ye is an International student from Guangzhou, China. He came to the United States in the fall of 2016 as an undergraduate student from the Iowa State University in Event Management.

He has produced various events for his school, and the major one was Spring Festival Carnival in 2018. This event has been rewarded as the “Events of the Year” from International Students and Scholars Office and International Student Council. He also actively participates in many clubs and activities including, the Iowa State Student Union Board, ISU Chinese Students & Scholars Association, Iowa State University International Student Council, and Iowa State University People to People Career Fair.

He is currently working as an Events Intern at Eurofins. He is responsible for monitoring national and regional trade show expenses, assisting with trade show research, data compilation, and utilizing CRM to create exhibitor or account owner list.

Not only he pursues excellence in coursework, but he also involves in the research study. He collaborated honors project with the school faculty titled “Examining Event Attendee Perceptions of Self-Service Technology in Event Registration,” and he is currently working interdisciplinary research with the school faculty.

He will be graduating in fall 2019 from Iowa State University. His goal is to be an exhibition manager and open an exhibitions company in the future.

Helen Brett Scholarship

The Helen Brett scholarship was established by Mr. Robert Kolinek, CEM, CMP and named for his grandmother, Helen Brett, who was a pioneer in the exhibition industry. The purpose of the scholarship is to assist individuals who are exploring the study of exhibition management with the end goal of advancing their career in this field. The scholarship serves to promote the exhibitions and events industry by attracting college level students into the field of study and encouraging their pursuit with financial support.

Scholarships are awarded on a competitive basis based upon pursuit of a degreed major focusing on exhibition and/or event management. If within a hospitality program, focus of study should be the exhibitions and events industry or those programs which are viewed by IAEE as particularly relevant to this field. Up to four scholarships may be awarded.

“My grandmother, Helen Brett, was one of the first female trade show organizers in the industry.  As a third generation family business owner I am very proud to continue her legacy through awarding scholarships to those who share my grandmother’s passion for trade shows.”

– Robert Kolinek, President & CEO, Helen Brett Enterprises

Robert Kolinek

Helen Brett Scholarship Criteria


  • Must be a full time student enrolled at an accredited college, university, junior or technical college
  • Must be enrolled in a degree program focusing on exhibition/event management
  • Minimum 3.0 grade point average on 4.0 scale
  • Completed Helen Brett Scholarship Application
  • Resume
  • Two letters of recommendation by faculty and/or from exhibition industry leader
  • Official transcript
  • One page essay submission (500-1,000 words) on an explanation of your goals and desired roles in the exhibitions and events industry
  • Consideration to attend Expo! Expo! in Louisville, Kentucky 8-10 December 2020

The Scholarship includes:

  • Up to $5,000 in tuition assistance
  • Consideration for potential candidates to have an internship experience at the Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition


Scholarship Application

Deadline to submit applications is 1 June 2020.

More information and form requests for the scholarship program can be obtained at the CEIR Foundation headquarters or by contacting Peggy Johnston at (972) 687-9202.