A Guide for Life’s Adventures

PROVO, Utah – Nov 23, 2020 – As a fourteen-year-old experiencing Disneyland for the first time, Macie Briggs Duncan knew her life was forever changed—something inside her had awakened. As she walked around, inhaling the scents of churros and popcorn, she knew she wanted to create experiences like this in her future career. Briggs Duncan, now an alumna of the Experience Design and Management (ExDM) Department at BYU Marriott School of Business, believes this experience was the start of her journey to the ExDM program.

After that trip to Disneyland, Briggs Duncan set a goal to help create enjoyable and memorable experiences for others. “I joined my high school's student government, where I helped plan dances and assemblies. Through those experiences, I learned that I enjoy planning fun activities for people,” Briggs Duncan says. “I learned about the experience design and management program as a freshman and knew it was the right fit for me.”

Upon graduating from the ExDM program in April 2018, Briggs Duncan began working for a Provo company called Alpenwild. Alpenwild plans hiking and walking vacations in the Alps for travelers. Within her first few weeks of working for Alpenwild, Briggs Duncan was invited to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc so that she could explain to customers what the hike was like. The Tour du Mont Blanc is a one-hundred-mile hike that encircles the Mont Blanc, winding through France, Italy, and Switzerland. The hike tops out at about nine thousand feet above sea level, and on some days, hikers gain two to four thousand feet of elevation.

“When I interviewed at Alpenwild, no one asked me if I enjoyed hiking or if I was a good hiker. Not long after I started working in my new role, my boss told me I would be joining a tour group soon on our Tour du Mont Blanc excursion,” Briggs Duncan says. “I had three weeks to prepare to join a group of super-fit hikers ranging from teenagers to sixty-five-year-olds, hiking more than ten miles a day for a week.”

Briggs Duncan learned several important lessons on that trip, including the importance of good hiking shoes. “The Tour du Mont Blanc was my first big hike. While the hike was insanely difficult, it was also beautiful and showed me what I was capable of,” Briggs Duncan said. “I got new hiking boots right before I left, and I had no time to break them in. We were sitting in France before our first day of hiking and one of the guides asked us to make sure our shoes were broken in. I got crazy blisters the first few days.”

During her time at Alpenwild, Briggs Duncan met and married her husband, Houser. In April 2020, Houser was accepted into a physician assistant program in Ohio. Although neither Briggs Duncan nor her husband had any previous connections to Ohio, they felt that moving there was the right decision. However, moving to Ohio was no easy task.

“At first, I didn't think moving in the pandemic would have a huge impact on us. Road tripping to Ohio wasn't terrible — gas was super cheap, which was nice. But once we arrived in Ohio and tried to do some exploring, we realized that everything was closed. We felt isolated in a brand-new place,” Briggs Duncan says. “Then my husband started online school for ten hours a day, and I stayed home alone looking for jobs.”

At first, Briggs Duncan struggled to find an available job in the ExDM industry, due to the increasingly socially distant world. Not having a job was a mental trial for Briggs Duncan, who finds joy in working. Her solution? “I started taking more time for myself, instead of focusing on how fulfilled I felt in my career or at work. I changed my lifestyle to be healthier by going to the gym. I spent my time doing things that were productive, and that boosted my spirits,” she says.

After a few months of searching, Briggs Duncan found a job as an activity coordinator at McGregor PACE, a senior day center. “What I do with my clients is a form of therapy,” Briggs Duncan says. “These patients have some form of mandatory activity during the day. I plan the activities, manage the calendar, and work on time management with them.”

Briggs Duncan takes pride in the work she does and credits much of her success to BYU Marriott’s ExDM program. “I think the ExDM major prepared me for my current job,” she says. Although her new job is much different than her previous one, she still finds her work to be exciting. "I may not be planning hikes, but I am still planning activities for people, activities that enrich their lives.

Macie Briggs Duncan
Macie Briggs Duncan
Macie Briggs Duncan hiking Tour du Mont Blanc.
Macie Briggs Duncan hiking Tour du Mont Blanc.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Madi Wickham