With a new degree in Resort Management from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, Carmen Howard already is a 10-year veteran of the hospitality industry. “I fell into the industry at age 12, working at Watervale, a near-by resort, receiving hands-on experience in the housekeeping department. From then on I worked in different roles at various locations such as Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course and Holiday Inn.” She developed a deep interest in travel during high school and credits the hospitality industry with broadening her horizons. She currently works as an Events Coordinator at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, MI.
Carmen minored in Special Events and Meeting Planning and Club Management. Down the road, she sees herself planning corporate meetings and events. Her goal is to “work for a business that allows room for growth and development while letting me focus on hospitality. My passion is to please guests at an astonishing level, and I will continue this journey with great enthusiasm.”
Her mentor is Jim LaBadie, account executive for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau and member of GMC’s Student Membership Committee. She said that Jim was a guest speaker at Ferris State in 2010 and has mentored her since then. “He has motivated me with his knowledge and wisdom. Not only is he successful in what he does, but he is passionate about the hospitality industry. This is what I admire about him. Jim has taught me the value of sincerity and trust in the business.”
When asked what has surprised her about the industry, Carmen replied, “I am in awe of how things have changed in the past 10 years. The things that industry professionals are coming up with are amazing and creative. I love this industry because I always learn something new every time I attend a conference or while networking.”
PCMA membership has helped her understand how the industry works. “I have learned many things by attending conferences that I did not have the opportunity to learn before. Without my membership, I would not have met the people I have or become a familiar face in my program and my school. This opportunity helped me seek new ideas and acquire new education experiences as well.”
She said the GMC PCMA “can assist me with network contacts in establishing myself and growing to be the person I want to be in this industry. It is not what you know, it is who you know, and I strongly believe that communication is the key to trust, friendship, and knowledge between two people. Starting off as a young professional, it is hard to find a relationship with someone who has been in the industry for years. Attending conferences is an excellent way to network, and Ferris State University provided many opportunities in experiencing that culture.”
As a recent graduate, Carmen offers this advice to student members: “Gain hands-on experience because that is when you will learn the most. Volunteering is perfect for life lessons, and I cannot stress enough that real life experiences is what will get you through tough situations. Paid or non-paid, it will be the knowledge that you can share on your resume or with your colleagues.”