Starting a career in 2020: meet Clemson PRTM alumna Aysia Cooper

November 18, 2020

By Sam Brooks, communications intern

A wedding is a special day for people all over the world. The event represents the beginning of a new adventure that will define them for the rest of their life. This was the case for Clemson University Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management (PRTM) alumna Aysia Cooper; it just happened to be her sister’s wedding.

Photo of Clemson alumna Aysia Cooper.

Clemson PRTM alumna Aysia Cooper completed her degree in 2020.

Born in Greer, South Carolina, Aysia has always had big dreams and found herself at Greer Charter High School, which gave her an opportunity to begin her college education early. After high school, she planned on becoming a dental hygienist and began her college career at Greenville Tech. Everything changed however when her sister became engaged and she was tasked with planning the event.

Whether it was picking out flowers, food or a dance playlist, Aysia immersed herself in the organization and planning process. While creating the perfect day for her sister, she found a hidden gift within herself. Aysia Cooper was made for organizing, planning, leadership and creating the perfect environment for others to enjoy. Once Cooper discovered her newfound passion she realized that that dental school was not the place for her. She turned her attention to find a place that could help develop the personal gifts that had been inside her all along. 

When deciding which field to study, she realized she needed more than just a hospitality degree. She needed a program that could fully develop all of her gifts and give her the opportunity to experience new things. Aysia found her home in the PRTM department.

“I like the chaos of everything, I like logistics, I like being in charge, handling all the moving parts and figuring out how we are all going to do an event together,” said Cooper. “Being in that chaos and taking control of a situation is what initially drew me to the program.”

She found that within the PRTM department, she could develop her event management skills, while also getting marketing experience that would help her in the professional world. 

“Clemson offers a PRTM concentration that is more than tourism and management, which is different from what a lot of other schools offer,” Cooper said. “We learned about so many different concentrations within the major that helped us understand different fields.”

Aysia recalls her classes with Bill Norman, Ph.D., a professor that is still a major influence in her life today. 

“Dr. Norman does a great job of connecting his classes to real life. He genuinely cares about you as a person,” said Cooper. “Every time I need a recommendation I give him a call and Dr. Norman still checks in on me. You can tell he really wants his students to succeed.”

Aysia’s PRTM learning also helped her put her natural abilities and knowledge gained in the classroom to the test. 

“Through one of my classes we got to plan and work the Student Affairs Gala for department donors,” Aysia said. “We planned the decoration, menu, and everything in between.”

Aysia said that her time working with Student Affairs played a significant role in her professional development.

“Student Affairs is something that is extra special to me. I worked with them for so long and it was such an important part of my Clemson experience.”

After graduating in the spring of 2020, Aysia was set to begin her dream internship with the City of Greenville in their special events department. However Aysia, like many former and current students across the country, had her internship altered due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A once paid internship became unpaid and her hours were cut down severely. 

Aysia Cooper clapping at a football game.

Cooper cheering on the Clemson Tigers.

Aysia had a choice to make. She could either make the most out of what was left of her opportunity or try to find something else. Aysia chose to maximize the opportunity she had been given. She bet on herself and the abilities the Clemson PRTM department had helped her develop. After the internship with the City of Greenville, she was able to land another internship with an architecture firm doing product marketing. This opportunity led to a full-time job with the architecture firm that continued to develop her professional skills. Aysia recently accepted a new position at Clemson University as an Event Coordinator. 

Aysia’s early success came as no surprise to her favorite professor, Bill Norman. 

“When I met Aysia she had a 4.0 GPA. When Aysia graduated she had a 4.0 GPA,” said Dr. Norman. “As her professor and advisor, I challenged her in the classroom and the profession. She surpassed my expectations at every turn. Aysia represents the best of PRTM and will do a great job as an Event Coordinator at Clemson University.”

The future for Aysia Cooper is bright and sure to be filled with exciting opportunities. She dreams of doing destination marketing for the City of Greenville full-time one day. In the meantime, she continues to believe in herself, work hard and trust the lessons she learned during her time at Clemson University.