Director of Greenville ONE Center uses psych degree to help provide top destination for corporate events
As executive director of the Greenville ONE Center, Lauren Johnson-Cummings is responsible for just about everything that happens in the 40,000-square-foot conference center — from managing the budget to hiring staff to overseeing events.
Through her 20-year career in event planning, she has made several stops in the bustling Upstate city, including the Greenville Convention Center and the performing arts Peace Center. Now she is in charge of the boutique conference center that includes a 274-seat auditorium, meeting and classrooms, catering kitchen and café, all located at a prime downtown address.
Along the way she’s learned how much the psychology degree she earned from the University of South Carolina College of Arts and Sciences in 2000 has prepared her for a career in the high-stress field of event planning.
“Twenty years ago, I didn’t know how I would use my degree. I knew I didn’t want to go the education route or be a counselor. But my degree prepared me in ways that still surprise me to this day,” she says. “When you work in events you meet all kinds of people with all kinds of personalities and expectations. In doing hundreds of events a year, I come across so many people and do so many different things. My psychology degree has really helped me understand behavior and relationships as it relates to my career.”
Johnson-Cummings is a native of Akron, Ohio, but her family moved to Greenville when she was in high school. She started her college path as an art major at Spelman College in Atlanta, and transferred to UofSC as a junior.
During her senior year, she had an internship with the American Diabetes Association in Greenville that turned into a full-time job after graduation. The position involved event planning, donor relations and running a camp for children with Type 1 diabetes.
For the next 20 years, she moved on to other hospitality management and event planning jobs at a variety of venues, where she has enjoyed a close-up view of the explosive growth in Greenville.
“The lure of Atlanta and larger markets has almost wooed me several times, but there’s so much ease and likability to Greenville. It’s been a good journey.” Lauren Johnson-Cummings
At the Greenville ONE Center, which occupies two floors of the high-rise building at West Washington and North Main streets, much of her job involves planning and organizing corporate events for organizations from around the world. Included in her job is giving visitors a glimpse at what the Upstate of South Carolina can offer — and building long-term relationships with clients.
“A lot of my business is corporate planning, not social events. There’s a lot riding on those events and they must be seamless,” she says. “We do a lot of repeat business, and I say once you walk through the doors at the Greenville ONE Center, we have a relationship for life.”
And while she has had offers to leave, Greenville is truly home for Johnson-Cummings, her husband and their three children.
“I’ve established roots here. My parents are still here. Family is what keeps us here. Greenville has grown so much and there is so much to see and do. It’s still a small city, but it has a cool, eclectic vibe. Thanks to all the growth there has been this influx of people and it’s becoming so diverse. It’s really grown in ways I’ve appreciated,” she says. “The lure of Atlanta and larger markets has almost wooed me several times, but there’s so much ease and likability to Greenville. It’s been a good journey.”