Student Earns National Hospitality + Event Scholarships

Rita Ellis accepting the Statler Foundation Scholarship of Excellence, with Associate Professor Leslie Kosky.

Rita Ellis '20 has had a whirlwind year: She interned for a hotel, volunteered at a homeless shelter, and worked for a marketing/PR firm all while starting her MBA and completing her bachelor’s degree. Her ambition and accomplishments haven't gone unnoticed.

Sports, Entertainment, Event — Management (SEEM) major, with a minor in Food & Beverage Management, Ellis was awarded two prestigious scholarships in 2019. She was chosen as a recipient of the Statler Foundation Scholarship of Excellence, awarded to upper-level college students studying hotel management. Recipients for this scholarship are selected because of their academic excellence, character and commitment to the industry.

For the second year in a row, she received the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) Helen Brett Scholarship, awarded to students studying exhibition management to advance their careers in this field.

Ellis is thrilled about the scholarships and quick to thank both organizations. She says she is carrying on Statler's legacy and admires the foundation's support of higher education in the hospitality industry. “It’s a great honor to be awarded the Statler Scholarship of Excellence. It has assisted me immensely with my tuition, allowing me to complete my undergraduate studies while also pursuing a master’s degree.”

Rita Ellis

“Humbled and honored” to receive the Helen Brett scholarship, Ellis thanks IAEE for its support of positive experiences in the exhibition management field. “Not only are they assisting me with tuition, but they are also giving me the opportunity to attend IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition, Expo! Expo! this winter, in Las Vegas, where I will be able to meet industry professionals, network, receive hands-on experience, and learn from other professionals.”

While slated to graduate in spring 2020 with her B.S., Ellis started graduate courses towards her MBA with a concentration in hospitality this year as well, which she’s on schedule to complete in December 2020. She is in the Special Honors and Rewards Program (SHARP) for qualified undergraduate students who want to complete their degree requirements in less than the usual required time.

Outside the classroom, Ellis’ commitment to a career in event management includes working for EGN Consulting, an event marketing and public relations firm, for more than a year. She also completed an internship at the East Wind Long Island, a boutique hotel in her hometown.

"Knowing that I am pursuing my passion and, in some way, making someone’s life better, is extremely gratifying."

Having an event management career has been a goal for Ellis since she was a teenager and began running events for a homeless shelter in Long Island. “Volunteering at Maureen's Haven Homeless Shelter as the event coordinator solidified my career path. The feeling of satisfaction I receive from providing hospitality to people who need to feel a sense of dignity is unmatched. Knowing that I am pursuing my passion and, in some way, making someone’s life better, is extremely gratifying.” She has also volunteered for several events in New England, including Gloria Gemma’s Flames of Hope annual fundraiser and as the lead event coordinator for Taste of Hope, the organization's food and wine tasting event.

Her academics and hands-on experience is putting Ellis on target for her ultimate goal of opening her own event planning company. She plans to manage a mix of events, including nonprofit, social and corporate.

For students thinking about a career in events, she offers first-hand advice: “You never know what any experience will lead you to; I suggest delving into the industry in a lot of different capacities to become well-rounded and find your expertise. I also encourage everyone to start early and get your foot in the door — lots of industry professionals say this, and it is so true.”