Student Success Stories

These former and current DCCCD students credit the Travel, Exposition and Meeting Management program with helping them at:

Loretta Allen

Group Sales Manager, Hotel Palomar

“I knew that I wanted to be an event planner when I graduated from high school. I found the Travel, Exposition and Meeting Management degree plan at Richland College, and it was more specific to what I wanted to do than any of the four-year degrees I could find.

“It took me three years to earn an associate degree, because I was also working full-time. I graduated in May of 2001, and that summer I interned at Crowne Plaza at Dallas Market Plaza, with the Intercontinental Hotels group. I interviewed for a position with one of their sister properties, the Harvey Hotel at DFW, but my interview was the morning of September 11, 2001. I was offered a banquet manager position, but then within two weeks, hiring was frozen.

“I continued to work as a bartender, and the next summer, I went back to work at Crowne Plaza as a wedding and catering manager, and I worked there a couple of years. Then I was promoted to Crowne Plaza in Addison, where I did wedding and association catering. After a year and half, management changed and I worked through the holiday season, then left with no other job lined up – but within a week, I was offered a job in catering sales at the Adolphus, and I stayed there three years.

“The great thing about Richland’s program is that the classes are taught by people in the industry. They say, ‘Here’s what the book says, but here’s what’s real-life. That program really gave me the footwork to understand how things work in the hospitality industry. With their internships, you get the chance to actually take part in the industry. Before you know it, you’re doing the job you were learning about. So many people get a degree just to get a degree, but they don’t use it.

“One of the best things about the program is the relationships I made; I still talk to M.T. Hickman and Colleen Rickenbacher all the time, and I know that I can call on them any time and have advice from people who know the industry.

“Having done a qualified internship really put me a long way down the road to my career — mine put me in a position where I was called back about open positions not once but twice. Richland provided a really good program, very specific to event planning. The cost is so reasonable – and the program is quick, concise and efficient, just what I was looking for. I wish more people would start a program like this right out of high school. If it hadn’t been for September 11, I would have gone to work immediately after finishing the program.

“I love what I do. With a degree, the possibilities in the hospitality industry are endless – from being a chef in a restaurant to working in a travel agency. Having the degree is so great because it backs all of that.”

Loretta Allen earned an associate degree in Travel, Exposition and Meeting Management from Richland College in May of 2001. She has been in her current position at the Palomar since January 2008.

Tina Bavemark
Meetings and Exhibits Coordinator, Society of Petroleum Engineers

“I took a class at Richland College while I was working in the U.S. as an au pair. I already had a teaching degree from where I grew up, in Sweden, but that class inspired me to come back to the states and get a hospitality degree in English.

“Everyone at Richland College was very friendly, and willing to help if we were brave enough to ask the questions. M.T. Hickman is not just a teacher, she’s a professional in the field who brings her experience from the world into the classroom. She brought in a real sense of what it’s like to make contacts out there, and then let us know how we go about doing that.

“I’ve been in this job since I got my bachelor’s degree in 2005. I do everything from pre-planning for conferences to making the conference happen, budgets, scheduling events and working with the marketing department on the conference program.

“What I love about my work is that it changes; it’s not the same all of the time. I don’t just sit behind a desk, I get to get out and see how the projects I’ve been working on come to life.

Tina Bavemark earned the equivalent of an associate degree and teaching certification from her native Sweden before earning an associate degree in Travel, Exposition and Meeting Management (TEMM) from Richland College in 2003. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from Johnson and Wales University in Miami, Florida. She was presented the 2008 Rising Star Award by Meeting Professionals International (MPI), a professional organization instrumental in establishing Richland’s TEMM program. Her photo is on Richland College’s Student Wall of Honor. The Society of Petroleum Engineers is a Richardson-based international association representing more than 73,000 professionals worldwide.

Fred Harris
Program Manager, North America Events Marketing, Nortel Communications

“I actually got this job before I finished my degree – it just sort of fell into my lap. I got recruited by a friend who was a temporary staffing consulting for Manpower, who had the Nortel account. I was hired as a community relations coordinator, which focused on employee events. Since then, I’ve moved into customer events.

“The best thing I got out of Richland’s program was the mentorship I got from professionals in the industry. I also got a lot of knowledge that’s not always shared by colleagues, and a good sense of the true value and customer service that it takes to do this job well.

“I love that my job is never monotonous, and the fact that when one project is done, it’s done. I have the flexibility to work from home – I can work anywhere I have a high-speed Internet connection — and I truly love being able to see parts of America I never thought I’d see.

“The best thing I got from Richland’s program was the mentorship and support from my professors, who were all working professionals. It was a tremendous advantage to have professors who were actually in the business, not just people who had gone to school to teach the subject.

“To succeed in this business, you have to be both detailed and flexible, and able to change at a moment’s notice. What do you do if the caterer is running five minutes behind; what’s your back-up plan? Learning the industry lingo is very valuable, and you also have to be computer-literate in the programs you’re going to work in, like Excel and Powerpoint.

“You either love or hate this job, so be sure it’s what you want to do. It’s not necessarily a Monday through Friday job. But you’re rewarded by seeing the finished product immediately – it’s instant gratification.

“I love my job. Of course there are some days when I hate it, but nine days out of ten, I love it. I was interviewed recently by a local newspaper and asked my idea of the perfect job. I have it. I have my dream job.”

Fred Harris serves as program manager for North America Events Marketing of Nortel Communications, working with a team of five other employees; the company also maintains a marketing team who works in Europe. He manages trade shows, marketing events and technology demonstrations, working each project from pulling together a working team to managing the event from start to finish. He holds an associate degree in Travel, Exposition and Meeting Management from Richland College.

Marletha M. Jackson
Owner, Marletha’s Classic Cuisine catering service

“Running my own catering business is a dream and a passion that I’ve had all my life. I was a part of corporate America for a long time, and raised two sons as a single parent, but I always loved to plan parties and cook for my family and friends. Growing up, my parents entertained all the time and I worked with a Jamaican chef in Houston for eight years.

“I worked for JP Morgan/Chase within the investments and securities area for several years, but when I was laid off and they gave me a $1000 retraining grant, I saw it as an opportunity to do what I’d always wanted. I wanted to get something else going in my life, and thought, ‘How can I reach that goal?’ So I enrolled in the TEMM program at Richland College and start working to obtain a Meetings and Event Management Certification, taking the required courses and learning as much as I could relating to travel, exposition and meeting management.  My retraining grant covered all of my classes and books.

“The program is excellent; it gave me skills in the meetings and conventions industry and the various aspects involved in planning and managing meetings and conventions. Chuck Laterza was an outstanding instructor with a host of knowledge for that class and especially in networking and making contacts. I really got a handle on how to plan timelines. You also have to think big, stay positive and surround yourself with positive people. That’s another one of the program’s huge advantages: all of the instructors are so passionate about what they do that they can’t help but spread their enthusiasm.

“The Customer Service class with Colleen Rickenbacher was outstanding – she’s got a talent that won’t quit and her brand is unique.  From the minute you walk into her class, you’re captivated. Jim Monroe is top-notch for Special Designs; his expertise is known around the Dallas metroplex. Christine Fletcher plans huge trade show and expositions so when she shares her knowledge, it comes from the real working world, not just from a textbook.  The program coordinator, M.T. Hickman, is amazing. she really draws from her professional experience These instructors live and breathe their professions; it’s a passion for them.

“Richland’s program has prepared me in so many ways to be successful in my own business, from understanding true customer service to making sure that everything I do meets safety standards for my clients. What  I have to offer is a smile, my brand is: I know what I know and my ultimate goal is to have a full-service banquet facility some day with a one-stop shopping for a complete experience.

“What I love about my job is meeting, greeting, networking and being of service to people, paying it forward. You just never know what’s going on in people’s lives. I like to be that light in people’s life for that day.

Marletha Jackson not only specializes in catering to private parties of 25 people and under, but also holds a bartending certification as a professional mixologist and a certificate for working with fresh flowers. She has worked serving alcoholic beverages at Dallas Cowboy’s games, which requires certification by the TABC (Texas Alcohol and Beverage Control). She received a certificate after completing 160 hours in the Meetings and Event Management program from Richland, where she participated in the TEMM mentoring program.

Martha (Marty) Rutledge
Senior Operations Manager, Ultimate Ventures

“In the summer of 2002, after two layoffs from the field in which I had worked for 15 years, I was in the frame of mind to reinvent myself.  I had a sketchy vision of where I wanted to go, but no direction, no map and no idea about where to get one.   Then I received Richland College’s fall schedule in the mail and found a compass imbedded in the pages!  Talk about manifesting what you need, when you need it. 

“The Travel, Exposition and Meeting Management program seemed to embody the substance that framed-up my fuzzy vision, and they just so happened to offer an information session outlining the program within a few weeks.  Jackpot!

“Since I had a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from Missouri State University (formerly Southwest Missouri State University) I opted out of the degree program and instead set my sights on obtaining TEMM’s newly structured Meeting and Convention Services Management certification – it was a perfect fit for my objectives.  I immersed myself in the program and was honored to be the first student to obtain that certification, receiving a scholarship along the way from Meeting Professionals International (MPI).

“The experience I had at Richland was simply invaluable in giving me the tools I needed to make a drastic career change.   Though I began the program with no experience in this field, the curriculum was thoughtfully designed to give students the necessary building blocks to achieve a well-rounded meeting planning education.  The instructors of the TEMM program are professionals with vast experience in the meetings and convention services industry, who exhibit great knowledge in and passion for their field.  Coursework was a happy blend of reading, real-life tales, hands-on projects and on-site experience.

“I can’t say enough about the TEMM program, its designers and implementers.   I would recommend this educational experience to anyone interested in the meeting and convention management industry, whether you’re a novice or a professional seeking to add a little more to your toolbox.”

As senior operations manager of Ultimate Ventures, Marty Rutledge not only executes corporate events but is responsible for the operation of the majority of transportation-related programs for her company’s Dallas-based destination management company.  Her job duties include proposal strategy and logistical planning for efficient vehicle utilization to customize services to meet individual client needs.  She develops and works to maintain partnerships with local vehicle vendors and is responsible for ensuring that the equipment needs of contracts are met with high service standards.

Christopher Wigley
Independent travel agent, Christopher’s Cruises and Tours

“I enjoy meeting people and I love what I do. I love talking about all kind of travel prospects, and I just enjoy every aspect of this profession.

“One of my Richland professors, Jay Luippold, really stands out – he really made it exciting to learn about destination geography. I get about 98% of the geography questions right on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ One night the question was, ‘What country is completely surrounded by another country?’ And I knew the answer, Lesotho (completely surrounded by South Africa). I could have won $1 million right there. M.T. Hickman was also very influential; she really draws from her professional experience.

“One of the biggest things I learned in the program was how to be professional in my own right, how to communicate as a professional in the travel and tourism industry. I tell my clients – and this is printed on my company brochure – that if I don’t have an answer, I won’t tell you what I don’t know. Give me some time and let me get back to you with an educated answer, not a guess.

“The number of people using the Internet to make their own travel arrangements has changed our business some, but hasn’t eliminated it. When you make your own arrangements online, do you know if you’re dealing with a reputable and trusted company, one that you feel comfortable giving your credit card number to? Wouldn’t you rather work one-on-one with a person face to face?”

“What I like about this business is meeting, greeting, networking – and that every job for every client is different. If you’re interested in a career in the travel and tourism industry, make sure it’s exactly what you want – and then strive to achieve your goal and dreams.”

Independent travel agent Christopher Wigley belongs to Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN), a group of independent travel agents. A certified nurses’ aide in private duty nursing home care for 15 years, he earned a six-month diploma in travel in tourism from Watterson College Pacific in San Diego, California. He earned a certificate in Travel, Exposition and Meeting Management at Richland College and plans to earn his associate degree in the program in May 2009.