Dimond Fellows Alumni
There are two reasons why a hospitality, tourism and events major makes sense for Devin Andersen: she was born in the breadbasket state and was raised in a doughnut shop. As a child in Kansas, her parents owned and operated a Daylight Donuts, where she started working at age seven. A few years later, her parents expanded their business into a full-service breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant. Every Saturday morning doughnut-making turned into every Monday-through-Saturday morning. By the time she was a sophomore in high school she was working 40 plus hours a week as a doughnut fryer, line cook, host and server.
She started at Kansas State studying education, but after taking a few hospitality classes, she fell in love with the idea of event planning. Devin says she is now a “lifer” in the hospitality industry. “I understand what hospitality is, having grown up in a place where the basis of hospitality originates,” she said.
Hotel management senior Hyemin Lee moved to Colorado from South Korea to attend Metropolitan State University of Denver. While in high school, she dreamed of studying in the United States to experience a different educational style and to improve her English skills. When she arrived, despite having studied English since she was four years old, she could not understand what people said because they spoke too fast. She moved in with a host family to experience American culture and to practice speaking English.
She was inspired to focus on hotel management and specifically on guests whose first language is not English, because of several challenging travel experiences in her life. One embarrassing moment took place when she was 11 years old at a Singapore airport. While waiting alone at customs, an agent asked, “How are you?” Nervous to talk to a person who looked different from her, she started sweating, and answered with a quivering voice, “I am an eleven.” She will never forget the look on his face and wants to help travelers avoid similar encounters.
After three years of studying finance at MSU Denver, army veteran Pamela Yang changed her major to Hospitality, Tourism and Events, to focus on restaurant management. It’s clear Yang does not regret the decision because, she said, “I have never been happier. I realized what my true passion was. The restaurant world to me is fast-paced and every day is a new day. I’ve worked restaurants for over eight years, and every table you get is different. Some people may be more understanding than others, some may be more demanding. You just never know what to expect.”
After graduating, she would like to manage a fine dining establishment for a few years and hopes to eventually open up her own restaurant. She imagines a small, cozy place where people can come and enjoy the company of friends and family, along with delicious Chinese American food.
A Glenwood Springs native, Marcus Bosco is a fourth-generation Coloradoan who aims to become a fifth-generation Colorado hotelier.
After trying on many different academic hats, he realized that his passion was in the industry in which he had been working. Twelve years into the hospitality business, he has found a "sense of fulfillment" he couldn't imagine finding anywhere else.
MSU Denver provided him with professors who care deeply about his success and who solidified his enthusiasm toward living a life of serving guests and his community.
Michallee Gallegos, who hails from Longmont, came to MSU Denver on the advice of her sister, also a MSU Denver student. After learning about the Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events, she told Michallee, “this sounds perfect for you; you’ve always wanted to do event planning!”
Through both a full course schedule and 40-hour work week, she discovered a much more fulfilling college experience than she had previously encountered. The rigorous and rewarding schedule, combined with work in the Office of University Advancement, allowed her to feel “profoundly happy to have found that sense of inclusion in the community again thanks to MSU Denver.”
Upon graduation, she aspires to work in the field of corporate event planning and help other students like her who have not had the traditional college experience.
Andrea Marin and her family emigrated to the United States from Argentina when she was eight. While watching her parents succeed in a country with a different language and culture, she learned the values of hard work, resilience and determination.
These virtues uniquely guided her during her life and studies at MSU Denver. Andrea’s diversity of cultural experiences gives her a special perspective while serving guests. She has an open mind that allows her to provide personalized hospitality to guests, no matter their cultural background.
For fun she loves to go salsa dancing with her husband and try food from different cultures.
Risa Wolffis has been thinking about a career in hospitality since she was five years old and told people, “I want to be a cooker and a cleaner.”
Since 2011, she has worked at the Cherry Hills Country Club, four years of which she has served as a manager. Her duties include coordinating the schedules of 40 employees to ensure that all shifts and events are staffed. Risa’s practical experience at the club and her academic work at MSU Denver have inspired her to follow her years old dream of developing a career in her field of study.
She particularly appreciates her professors’ real world industry experience, which has shown her many possibilities in the hospitality industry and encouraged her to advance her career.
A mother to six children, LeAnn Tousley Gunnell completed her bachelor’s degree in hospitality, tourism and events with a concentration in event management.
Her experiences include organizing classroom and schoolwide parties for 30 to 500 guests; managing and coordinating travel for youth, JV and varsity sports teams; and working as a front-of-house staff member for Epicurean Catering.
As a person who likes to make special moments for others on a professional level and help clients and staff celebrate each day, Tousley Gunnell aspires to be a meeting planner or work in human resources for a large hotel in Denver.
Elizabeth Settambrino is a first-generation college student and graduated in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality, tourism and events with a concentration in event management.
She studied abroad at Prague University of Economics in Summer 2015, with a concentration in international event management and sports and event management.
She worked as an event coordinator intern for the Colorado Open Golf Foundation in 2014.
Amanda Dinan grew up in Michigan and was raised in the hospitality industry.
Her parents owned two restaurants and she was always eager to help out as much as possible, developing a passion for the industry. Having spent two years studying health care management, she realized it was not the right career path for her.
Having always dreamed of moving to Colorado, she turned that dream into a reality and moved to Denver and enrolled in MSU Denver’s hospitality, tourism and events program.
Dinan graduated in December 2016 with a concentration in hotel management.
A transfer student from Colorado State University, Bridget “Birdie” Meyers approaches life with a sunny outlook.
She first realized her interest in the hospitality industry when she was a counselor at “Teen Camp,” where she had to keep it safe, keep it fun, keep everyone engaged and keep them coming back for more.
She is pursuing a concentration in events management with the goal of having a career in sales, marketing or management.
Elizabeth Fischer graduated in December 2015 with a degree in hospitality, tourism and events with a concentration in event management. She thrives on providing others with excellent hospitality and loves balancing creative and logistical opportunities when planning events.
She has held numerous leadership roles in the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, including that of president, and developed essential skills in her position as student organization accountant with the Office of Student Activities at MSU Denver.
While she aspires to form her own event planning business, her short-term goal is to begin her career as a convention sales manager or event planner. She is a graduate of Chatfield Senior High School in Littleton, Colorado.
Thomas Mortensen has years of experience in the restaurant business, including positions with Cucina Colore and Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar in Denver. He built on those skills by earning his degree with a concentration in hotel management in 2016.
In addition to his work with privately owned restaurants, Mortensen has worked for a variety of corporate restaurant chains, and as a personal banker.
A graduate of Northglenn High School, Mortensen is a leader in the classroom, often sharing his professional experiences with other students.
Christina Murray’s family always jokes that if you left her in a room full of strangers she would be friends with all of them within 30 minutes. Murray’s positive approach to life – a trait she learned from her mother – has been a cornerstone of her success.
She inherited her father’s strong work ethic as well and is dedicated to earning exceptional grades and helping as many people as possible.
Her professional experience includes working as the guest service agent for Fairfield Inn and Suites Marriott and as assistant to the event planner for the Center of Multicultural and Diversity Education at the University of Arkansas.
Perizae Tzantarmas spent her childhood immersed in a vivacious Greek community in Portland, Oregon, where her parents prepared her for life in the hospitality industry, sharing their experiences as an event planner and a small-business restaurant owner.
Tzantarmas’ professional experience spans a variety of service-oriented positions, including working as an assistant editor at Heartlight Girls Publication, LLC.
Her love for special events grew from her job as a service staff member with Pantheon Banquet Hall in Portland.
Taylor Bates began helping plan events as a high school student at Westlake Academy in Texas, which was the impetus for her path to MSU Denver and a career in hospitality and event planning.
Bates worked as an intern at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas for a summer and currently works as a sales representative for Michaels Arts & Crafts. She has spent time as a volunteer with UNICEF and Fortress, a youth development center.
By pursuing a career in hospitality and event planning, she hopes to travel widely and experience a variety of cultures while applying his passion for working with and for people.
As a fourth generation Coloradan and third son of a retired school teacher and an airline reservations agent, Andrew Hensley has observed and learned significantly from his parents’ example of working in service to others.
Hensley chose the hospitality field, wanting to emulate the service provided by his parents, because it most closely aligns with his sensibilities, believing that travel can be an enlightening experience, and can foster understanding among people.
Mayya Macaleese was an international student from Russia who speaks four languages, including Chinese and Spanish. Having previously been employed at The Broadmoor Hotel as a server for a short time before going back to Russia in 2011, she earned her degree in May 2016 to return to work in the hospitality industry.
“I am glad that my current job helps me improve my social, leadership, communication and professional skills that would be very useful to implement in my future job at a hotel. But, I am eager for this opportunity to get real training in the hospitality industry.”
Sara Olan, in addition to her position as vice president of the Rocky Mountain Professional Convention Management Association (RMPCMA) student chapter at Metropolitan State University of Denver, took 18 credit hours and worked 30 hours a week as a customer service representative for Crate & Barrel, CSG, and Expo Masters.
Fluent in Spanish, Olan admits that “there are definitely times when my life gets really stressful, moments when I wonder to myself if it is all worth it, but in the end, I know that working in this industry is what I want and I know that working as hard as I do will eventually pay off.”
Jessica Plude, after taking a few years off from school, recommitted herself in 2015 to earning her degree and expanding her career opportunities.
She wants to combine her passion for the culinary world with her customer service and business background.
“Growing up, I remember my family always reminding me that I should never give up no matter how hard it can be. Looking back, I am glad I never forgot that.”
Brittiney Sierra gradauted cum laude in 2015 with her degree in hospitality, tourism and events, but passed away in October 2016.
Brittiney she volunteered with many nonprofits and signed up for as many 5k and half-marathons as she could.
Through her experiences, including a semester abroad, she developed an interest in the business side of the hospitality industry.
Joe Boss was inspired to dedicate his life to a career in hospitality when he was seven years old.
His grandmother showed him a box of his great grandfather’s hotel and restaurant memorabilia, including name tags, menus, and hotel blueprints. “My grandmother told me the story of my great grandfather that, how we would run each hotel, buy and sell new bars and restaurants and how he lost it all in the Great Depression. I knew at that point that I wanted to own my own hotel and restaurant one day.”
In addition to studying as a full-time student and working as a server at Texas Roadhouse, Joe was a student member of MSU Denver’s Board of Trustees after serving for two years as a senator in student government.
Jillian Grimm, a Long Island, N.Y. native, moved to Colorado in 2008Here, she fell in love with the mountains and the world of hospitality.
“There is something simply satisfying about putting a smile on another person’s face. The smallest gesture can turn someone’s day around.”
Jillian earned her degree in May 2015.
Tristin Lawrence’s goal is to one day become a general manager of a luxury hotel. A 10-year veteran of the hospitality industry, she came to MSU Denver after working two full time jobs in Aspen.
One day, her human resources manager asked, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?”
This eye opening question led her three weeks later to register for classes in Denver. “Leaving Aspen shows how important this dream of success in hospitality is to me and how much I was willing to give up and how far I’m willing to go.”
Lauren Spagnuolo worked full time as a human resources professional while studying at MSU Denver as a full-time student before graduating in 2014.
She has worked for the Double Tree by Hilton Westminster, the Brown Palace and Vail Resorts.
She loves working in human resources because “you have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the employee.
You are their advocate and must assist managers in understanding the HR perspective in decision making.”
Fall 2014: Joe Boss, Jillian Grimm, Rita Dimond, Navin Dimond, Lauren Spagnuolo and Tristin Lawrence