Another Success: The 2019 Women’s Hospitality Leadership Forum

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Another Success: The 2019 Women’s Hospitality Leadership Forum

On March 29, 2019, UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management  hosted the 3rd biannual Women’s Hospitality Leadership Forum (WHLF), themed “A New Era of Inclusion: Performance Driven”. The forum was organized through collective efforts of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH), a professional student organization and Rosen College faculty and staff. The forum was a huge success, hosting approximately 80 attendees consisting of industry professionals, faculty, staff and students! The day started off with a welcome from Dean Youcheng Wang, introducing the attendees to the power-filled event acknowledging the accomplished keynote speakers, panelists, and seminar presenters.

Dean Wang stated, “It is only right that we bring together our industry superstars to equip and empower the future generation of superstars within the hospitality industry.”

He ended his welcome inspiring attendees to be encouraged and inspired and continue to promote gender equity and inclusiveness in the hospitality industry. The morning keynote speaker was Gert Garman, CEO of GERT’s Broad Perspective message focused on the “POW” in EmPOWerment!” She enlightened us on how listening to others ideas and supporting others is empowering. She introduced the concept of “date an idea but don’t marry it” so we gain reflective insight. She also encouraged us to be thankful, to help others, and to be brave and take risks. Gert ended with inspiring attendees to think about their unique “WOW” factor and how it makes them Matter! Addressing the attendees after Gert Garman’s powerfu


l message, Tracy Powell, Vice President of Pricing & Revenue at Disney Parks & Resorts, delivered an inspiring address titled “Leading and Pursuing Your Dream!” Tracy inspired attendees to find and follow their dream because dreams can really come true.

Tracy explained that “It’s only crazy if you don’t do it, and the world is waiting!” She encouraged attendees to “Make you a priority and pursue your dreams!”

Following Tracy Powell’s uplifting message, was the “Spilling the Tea” panel discussion. The panelist were: Megan Dowdy, owner of Megan Dowdy Realty and a UCF Rosen College faculty member; Dr. Lisa Jones, Associate Provost for Strategy at UCF;  Lindsay Koren, Vice President and the Associate General Counsel of Darden Restaurants; and Dr. Wei Wei who is a UCF Rosen College faculty member. The wonderful discussion was hosted by Kathy Henry, co-chair of the forum. Panelist Megan Dowdy told the audience NOT to change their rules for anyone and to be kind to people. Panelist Lisa Jones identified the key people you need in your professional career journey. She encouraged attendees to find mentors who will tell them what they need to do, coaches who will show them how to do it, and sponsors who will help make it happen. Panelist Lindsay Koren, explained the importance of being authentic and to remember integrity matters. Panelist Wei Wei shared how “words matter and action creates impact.” She also stressed the importance of being intentional on how you show up. Show up with a plan and be ready to effectively execute your plan with excellence.

After this illuminating discussion, attendees headed into a luncheon with keynote speaker, Katie Worthington, CEO of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce. Katie’s keynote address was titled “Two Roads Diverge in the Wood-Expectations and Evolution.” Katie shared with the attendees that mapping your life out is great but when you come to a crossroads that could make or break you, it’s up to you to decide how you’ll handle it because that will build your character. Following this insightful address, the women attended a breakout seminar of their choosing.

There were three breakout seminars led by amazing speakers:

  • Brandee Gaar, owner and lead designer of Blush by Brandee Gaar, LLC, spoke about her journey of “Making it BIG in the Event Industry.”
  • Precious Makuyana a recent law school graduate and Rosen College Adjunct faculty shared about the importance of developing your “Career Brand.”
  • Zita Steglich Ross, CMP, Chief Marketing Officer of Steglich Ross & Associates Hospitality Marketing Consultants gave insight of how to “Build a Successful Business.”

Following the breakout seminars, the conference ended with a networking session themed “OH! The Places You’ll Go”. The wrap up session inspired attendees to reflect on their “Wow” and to “Dream Big!” and inviting attendees back to the 2021 conference to share all the places they have gone! A reception wrapped up the entire day with forum attendees enjoying great food, raffle items and networking.

Lori V. Safford, Conference Chair
Kathy Henry, Co-Chair
Wendy McKnight, NSMH Advisor

NSMH and WHLF Committee Members:

  • William Adderly, NSMH Community Service
  • Kiara Berrios, NSMH
  • Kerri Bottorff, Website & Technology
  • Susan Boucher, Alumni Relations
  • Evena Elistin, NSMH Secretary
  • Samantha Fox, Volunteer
  • Alexis Gates, Registration
  • Gabriel Hedgepath, NSMH Finance & Fundraising
  • Kim Hodges, NSMH Vice President & PR
  • Ricarya Jackson, Volunteer
  • Edwina Norvelus, Logistics & Technology
  • Clement McIntosh, NSMH National Parliamentarian (Pre-College Outreach)
  • Jessica McKinney, NSMH
  • A’Rion Raymond, Catering Manager
  • Ashley Smith, NSMH President
  • Susan Vernon-Devlin, Public Relations
  • Youcheng Wang, Ph.D. Dean, UCF Rosen College