Meet Melissa Ariate Jarvis, Director, Scientific Conferences and Meetings Programming for the American Heart Association.
When her hotel contacts and meeting planning colleagues find out Melissa Jarvis graduated from Cornell University, they just assume she majored in hospitality. Ranked No. 1 in BestSchools.org 2019 rankings of schools producing hospitality management degrees, Cornell has long been a top university in this field.
“I studied industrial and labor relations,” Jarvis says with a laugh. “It’s very ironic now. It’s always interesting how people get into places in their life.”
A Tucson, AZ native, Jarvis was introduced to the hospitality field in her first job. “I worked for a company that did a lot of business meetings so I would do (plan) a lot of conferences and events.”
Today Jarvis is the Director, Scientific Conferences and Meetings Programming for the American Heart Association based in Dallas. She started with the Association as a conference manager in 2011 before eventually elevating into her current position.
“I ran two of the smaller specialty conferences,” Jarvis said of her initial responsibilities for AHA. “I later was the senior manager over our large annual meeting.”
Now with seven direct reports and a team of 20, Jarvis says she really enjoys and is honored to be working in the industry, especially working with AHA. She loves the team work and the differences and variety of the events.
Jarvis and her team are preparing for AHA’s large annual meeting in November and Jarvis said right now it is still a go. The usually 16,000-attendee event is to take place in Dallas. AHA is also working on a virtual solution should the in-person event cancel. This is an area AHA has already had success executing.
“We have made really good progress in virtual (events). We had two smaller meetings that were to be in person in May and we converted them into virtual in a matter of two months,” Jarvis said of the meetings that can draw up to 1000 attendees. “We worked with our vendors and our program committee to convert the meetings to virtual.”
As could be expected, there were a few hiccups, but overall Jarvis said the events were a success. “The participants really enjoyed participating in the virtual event,” she said. “They went really well actually.”
Jarvis said the on-line attendance was basically the same as the in-person events. She credits this to how AHA approached marketing these meetings. Where normally a smaller in-person event would attract only domestic attendees, AHA marketed the virtual event globally to members who normally wouldn’t have traveled in.
“So, let’s say we have a person in South America (who normally wouldn’t attend) who can now participate,” Jarvis said. “So, this is an exciting thing for us that we hope to capitalize on moving forward.”
While Jarvis sees all the exponential possibilities for virtual content now and in the future, she can’t wait for face-to-face meetings to become a norm again.
And even though while at Cornell she didn’t take part in its high-ranking hospitality department, Jarvis still managed to find her way into the middle of it all.
Notes: Jarvis is married and they have “a blended family” with an 18, 24 and 25-year-old along with a 6-year-old. “Tell people I have three adult children and a six-year-old.” Jarvis’ hobbies include hand-lettering, gardening and functional fitness.
Favorite Movie: Definitely Maybe