Back in 2016 I embarked on a professional journey. I knew it would be full of new challenges, exciting opportunities and a lot of work for me to do. I was going to be a student again, but without the fun parties and youthful energy I had for late-night studying in my 20’s. I have a few different professional designations that provide professional networks and training and lots of benefits - but for the next step in my career I really wanted to acquire the CDME designation.

Dave BuckenburgerThe Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) designation is one of the tourism industry’s highest individual educational achievements. The rigorous program prepares senior executives, who want to advance their careers to blend theory with experience and application of knowledge to help industry leaders thrive in a constantly changing environment. The main program focus is on vision, leadership, productivity and implementing business strategies.

I remember reading: The suitable CDME applicant is an experienced professional who has developed a broad knowledge base mirroring Destinations International’s professional tracks and destination marketing industry standards. Graduates of the program will be equipped with the knowledge needed to adapt and manage the increasing change and competition facing the industry.” I wanted that for my career, for myself. I wanted to build better leadership skills, better identify leaders to bring into my organization. I wanted to be a professional who could hire and develop talented people and then place them in engaging roles where his or her individual talents can be showcased. After taking the 4 core courses and two elective courses (listed below) I took numerous exams and wrote a paper for my final exam (Twenty-two pages that I wrote and re-wrote and put a lot into to get just right) which was a narrative on a variety of modern leadership styles and initiates, including common leadership mistakes to avoid.

I've turned in my paper and as I wait for the results I feel a real sense of pride for what I will have accomplished and I think of everything I learned and how I can apply it right away in my daily work as an executive staff member of a DMO. I come away feeling fortunate that everything I just learned about leadership and mentoring and fostering talent and creativity in others can be put into practice right away. Combine that with the numerous contacts I made along the way getting my CDME and you’re looking at a very satisfied, and hopefully, soon to be certified, Destination Management Executive. Not only have I made a step in my own career earning this designation, I've also emboldened my organization, as the Greater Lansing CVB will hopefully boast not just one but two CDME's on staff as we market our services to event professionals considering Greater Lansing. An exciting afternote is that when my colleague Julie Pingston and I get the CDME designation, we will be two of only three CDMEs in the state.

I’d love to talk to you more about the steps I took and things I learned while working to achieve the CDME, so if you’re thinking about going for it yourself, send me an email at Start your own journey and learn more about the CDME program at

Participated and completed coursework in 4 Core Courses

  1. Strategic Issues in Destination Management
  2. Destination Marketing Planning
  3. Destination Leadership
  4. Destination Advocacy and Community Relations

 2 Elective Courses

  1. Destination Positioning and Branding
  2. Destination partnership and Innovative Funding