Karla Washington, Meeting and Event Management Student, University of Nevada-Las Vegas

I was a high-school dropout. I never really got good grades and there's a long history of reasons why. Now that I'm older, I realize it wasn't because I was “dumb,” as I had been called for so long. I had my daughter at 36 and became a single parent and I ended up on welfare. I realized that I didn't want her to repeat that same cycle, so I went back to school.

I went to Santa Monica Community College and I was really doing well. I thought I would go for computer graphics, but I hated sitting behind that computer. I went to a counselor and he said, ‘What do you really want to do?’ I said, I love hospitality, I would love to be working at a hotel or something where I am able to be around people and plan meetings or events. He said there were several schools that specialized in that. I had no idea! UNLV stood out to me. Then I realized, I can't afford this. But they had a scholarship program and I qualified.

I'm now a senior. I graduate in 2012 and I feel very proud to be able to say that I will have a BA in meetings and events from UNLV. My concern is for the students who come after me who will not have a degree in meetings and events, but only a concentration (see article, page 19).

Renea Anderson, Event Management Student, University of Central Florida, Orlando

Both of my parents began and developed their careers with the Walt Disney Company. My parents were examples to me that I know led to a passion for the hospitality and tourism industry. This industry certainly has come a long way. I originally went to college on a volleyball scholarship and planned to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. I did not complete my degree and took time off when I chose to raise a family. There are many reasons I chose to pursue a bachelor's degree in meeting and event planning, but one defining moment for me was when I worked for Fox News as a freelancer during the 2008 presidential race and realized that what I truly liked was the planning and logistics side of meetings and events. When I was ready to return to school to finish my degree, UCF offered a bachelor of science degree in meeting and event management. This was unique and I felt it would be a great fit for me.

Marissa Hile, Event and Meeting Planning Assistant, Indianapolis Bar Association; Recent Graduate from Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis

When I was looking into colleges I wasn't positive what I wanted to major in. I knew I wanted to work with people in the customer service industry and not be stuck behind a desk doing the same thing every day. When I came across information from Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis on tourism, convention, event management, I felt it was the major for me. After visiting the campus I knew the major was exactly what I was looking for as a career. This degree offers opportunities in multiple career paths, instead of just focusing on one area of the hospitality industry. Knowing this, I allowed myself to find the niche I was best suited for. Although this career path calls for early mornings and late nights at times, I knew I could handle it since I would be doing what I loved.