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 D/FW Airport, but my interview was the morning of Sept. 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 Sept. 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.