Beverly Brownlee, a seasoned travel and tourism professional, is on the move. Although she is well-acquainted with the benefits of networking, she is rediscovering the power of education: Brownlee is enrolled in Kendall’s B.A. in Hospitality Management with a specialization in Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition (MICE).
She entered the program to increase her skills and experience for a very good reason: Recent studies prove that a degree in hospitality can give graduates an edge in the rapidly growing meeting and event industry. After attending a conference in Newport Beach, California, this fall, Brownlee spoke with us to share her career goals and why she’s dedicated to networking.
You are a successful professional. Why did you choose to return to school?
I’ve worked in the travel and tourism industry for more than 20 years. My goal is to become a professional globetrotter, scouting new and unique locations for conferences and conventions.
I chose Kendall for its accreditation, small classroom size, and because instructors have a plethora of knowledge of the industry that I believe will help me achieve my goals.
Why did you recently attend the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners (NCBMP) Conference?
I’ve long known the benefits of being affiliated with professional associations. Since 1983, the NCBMP has been a premier professional organization for meeting planners, association executives, suppliers, and other hospitality professionals. As I sought out organizations I thought would be instrumental tools in my professional growth and development, the NCBMP stood out. I learned about the student program on the organization’s website and applied to attend the 2015 conference as a student based on my merit, extracurricular accomplishment, and leadership potential.
The 2015 conference focused on cultivating leadership skills by connecting, learning, and sharing. Topics of the four-day event covered how to brand yourself, the art of successful negotiation, and breaking the glass ceiling in the C-suite. Each student attendee was paired with a mentor who will support, counsel, and connect them with industry professionals as they transition into the corporate world. My mentor is Michael Munn, chief of staff and director of business development for the Boston Convention Marketing Center. For the next year, we will work together and he will help to connect me with industry professionals.
What were a few of the most valuable lessons you learned at the conference?
The conference provided me with a plethora of information that will supplement my studies and career, but I attained two key lessons:
The importance of networking in today’s business world. Effective networking can be your best form of marketing. By connecting with the right individuals, I can propel myself forward. Additionally, I had the opportunity to see firsthand if an organization is one I want to be a part of in the future, learn about key players, and build connections with people who shared their experiences, knowledge, and advice.
The second lesson is the value of gathering information from other professionals in the industry. Making good decisions begins with fact finding. It is crucial to stay current and in the loop with current trends when seeking employment in an industry.
What advice do you have for your fellow students?
While every organization is different, being affiliated with one gives you advantages, including networking and professional development opportunities, you can share and gain knowledge about a career field and learn about current trends. Many professional organizations also offer scholarships for college and high school students, and may match you with a mentor, which is helpful for students who are interns or professionals in entry-level positions. Professional memberships may also open doors, allowing you to enhance your career by giving you greater exposure to the job market.