On November 17, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2022 Health and Human Services Hero Awards to recognize individuals who are making a bold difference right here in the Central Valley. We will highlight the ten honorees in our Heroes Blog Series.

hero22_saoki_smName: Steve Aoki 

Occupation: Director of Event Services, Save Mart Center at Fresno State 

Nominated by: Department of Recreation Administration 

There is never a dull moment on the job for Steve Aoki, who says his job allows others the ability to let go of daily stress, fears and personal problems that may be plaguing them. 

For the next few hours they are taken to a different place where they can unwind and truly recreate,” Aoki said. “For some, it’s their first time seeing a show. For others, it’s being able to see their idols one last time. When the lights go dark and the first note is played, the screams and cheers of the crowd make you realize how magical the event industry really is.” 

As director of event services at the Save Mart Center, Aoki oversees all event operations and services for one of the biggest entertainment venues in the Central Valley. This position has allowed him to work with some of the most popular and internationally known artists and celebrities in the entertainment industry, including Madonna, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, the WWE and Top Rank Boxing, among others. 

“Like most students, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living,” Aoki said of his career journey. “However, I knew I didn’t want to sit behind a desk my entire life. My sister connected me to a longtime friend of hers who worked at Selland Arena. After hearing about his job, I went into Fresno State’s recreation administration office the next day and changed my major.” 

The move paid off for Aoki.

Soon after earning his bachelor’s degree in recreation administration from Fresno State (with an emphasis in sport and entertainment facility management) in 1998, Aoki was hired on as an usher and parking attendant at Selland Arena in downtown Fresno. Later that fall, he began an internship with the arena and was eventually hired on part-time as an event specialist by the time his internship was completed.  

In 2003, he got his start at the Save Mart Center when the venue opened its doors for the first time. He began as the parking manager and later, event coordinator before working up the ranks to his current role. 

Today, Aoki is actively involved with the Department of Recreation Administration, where he serves on the sport and entertainment facility management advisory board and as a regular guest speaker. He also provides students with internship opportunities at the Save Mart Center that include 525 hours of hands-on experience. He says instilling confidence and success in the students, and the ability to one day work in any entertainment venue they desire, is his ultimate goal for them. 

“I like being able to show the interns the true side of the industry and give them the tricks of the trade so they are prepared to work right out of their internship,” Aoki said. “I believe Fresno State’s recreation administration program is one of the top in the nation, and as an alum of the program, I want to pass on what I know to keep the industry growing.”

Steve Aoki (L) meets DJ, Steve Aoki, one of the highest paid DJ’s in the world, who happens to share his name! Photo Credit: Steve Aoki (Fresno State alumnus)

The 2022 Health and Human Services Hero Awards, which celebrates heroes from each of the seven departments, as well as centers and institutes within our college, will be held virtually this year. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at bwilkinson@csufresno.edu.