Marymount University senior Lauren Real, a Bachelor of Business Administration major with a concentration in Hospitality Management, has received $4,000 in scholarships from the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation (AH&LEF). She received $2,000 each from the American Express Scholarship Fund and the Hyatt Hotels Scholarship for Minority Lodging Management Students. Selection criteria included strong academics, hospitality work experience, extracurricular/professional activities, personal attributes, financial need, and a desire to pursue a career in the hotel industry.
Real truly understands the value of a college education. Monetary issues almost caused her to withdraw in her sophomore year, but she was determined to become the first college graduate in her family. “Marymount provided financial aid, but it was not enough to cover tuition,” she explains. “My only option was to work full-time and go to school full-time.” Real worked at a sales job for two years that only covered personal expenses, then landed a position as a front desk agent at the Embassy Suites in Friendship Heights. That was two years ago; she has gained experience and moved up to become the front desk lead person.
For Real, working at the hotel is the start of a dream career. Thinking back to high school, she recalls, “For the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Career Day, we visited a hotel, and I knew immediately that I had found my field. Now at Marymount, I can connect what I learn in the classroom with what I do at work.” For an assignment in her Strategic Hospitality Management course, she was able to use a real issue at work – requests for additional services in the VIP concierge lounge. Real notes, “Not only did it work for class, I pitched my idea to hotel management, and now the VIP concierge lounge is being considered for future renovations.”
Juggling class and work schedules has taken a lot of coordination, but she has had the support of both professors and hotel supervisors. In spring 2013, she will do her required Marymount internship in the Embassy Suites HR department. The arrangement to be both a regular employee and an intern was worked out by David Pomeroy, internship director for the School of Business Administration, and the hotel management. Real has already begun working closely with the hotel’s HR office to develop new employee recognition strategies and screen applications for open positions.
With such a full plate, Real still managed to take advantage of an affordable spring-break trip last March to Panama, which was a component of her Doing Business in Latin America course. Fluent in Spanish, she enjoyed meeting with Panamanian hotel executives and can envision working in the thriving Latin American hotel industry – possibly in Venezuela, her parents’ native country. There are also many options for professional development through her current employers that could lead to jobs at domestic resorts and/or international hotel properties.
While on a strict budget, Real is committed to helping others. She sets aside funds to sponsor a seven-year-old Dominican girl – sending $25 each month, and even adding a little extra for special occasions like birthdays. This past summer, she also donated 12 inches of her waist-long hair to Locks of Love.
James Ryerson, Marymount’s dean of the School of Business Administration, applauds her motivation and accomplishments. He says, “We’re extraordinarily proud of Lauren. It’s amazing how she has balanced work, school, and family. Her determination is an inspiration to all of us.”
With graduation in sight, Lauren reflects, “I’ve always been driven academically, and I feel that I have a huge advantage by gaining so much experience early on. Being bi-lingual also offers many different career routes. It was once a struggle living from paycheck to paycheck but, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t fight through the battle. I feel extremely fortunate and blessed.”
James Ryerson, dean of the School of Business Administration, presents MU senior Lauren Real with the Scholarship Award plaque from the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation.