From Hands on Hospitality Classes to a Rising Star in Hotel Management

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Cindy Rivas

Cindy Rivas always wanted to work in the hospitality industry, and knew she wanted to work at the management level. To get there, she recognized that she needed to go back to school to pursue a degree, but she needed a program that was flexible and allowed for an easy commute so she could maintain her full-time job. Cindy found a match in the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s (UMES) Hospitality and Tourism Management program, offered locally at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG).

Another main reason why Cindy chose to pursue her UMES Bachelor’s Degree at USG was its affordability. Cindy applied for and was awarded a full scholarship through the USG Kendall Scholars Program, which not only allowed her to focus more time on her studies, but propelled her into leadership positions within other campus organizations. “The #1 thing that I took away from being part of the USG family are my leadership skills.”

While at USG, Cindy was the founder and first president of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, a student-run organization that promotes diversity of leaders in the hospitality industry. Cindy was also an active member of Campus Kitchens Project (CKP), a community service organization that provides food to homeless and low-income families in Montgomery County.

“One of my happiest memories is learning how to cook, and then delivering that food to a low-income family with CKP,” says Cindy. “At USG, I was constantly doing things that were bigger than me, bigger than just 9 universities and 1 campus. It was all about how can we make a difference in the community and what we can do outside once we graduate.”

Cindy’s leadership prowess wasn’t confined solely to the USG campus. She was one of two students selected to be part of the Voyage Program at Marriott International, a highly competitive 12-18-month leadership program within the regionally headquartered hotel chain company. “UMES at USG was a big help in getting me ready for the Voyage Program. I was confident I would get in because I had so much help every step of the way.” Participation in this program is what set Cindy on the path to becoming the General Manager of a local branch of the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, where she now manages an 8 million dollar asset portfolio and more than 140 people.

“Who I am as a person and who I am as a leader is because of the experience I gained here on campus.”

Today, Cindy is a guest lecturer at USG, where she shares her knowledge with a new group of students who are pursuing a career path just like hers. She encourages students to take advantage of all the opportunities on campus, like she did. “I stepped on campus bright eyed and bushy tailed, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I took advantage of the opportunities and made good memories. I left with a lot a knowledge and as a confident leader with the ability to give back to my community.”

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