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Kevin De Jesus - Student Spotlight

It’s no stretch to say that Kevin De Jesus was born to work in the hospitality industry.

De Jesus, a junior majoring in Hospitality Management, fell in love with event planning thanks to his mother, a global events coordinator. As De Jesus watched her travel and make plans, he developed a passion for the industry as well.

That passion led him to Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management. According to De Jesus, Penn State exposes students to many opportunities and offers electives that can fit each student’s individual interests.

More than 4,500 Penn State students are enrolled in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) studying a wide array of fields, each committed to the concept of improving the quality of life for others. De Jesus, who found a home in the School of Hospitality Management (SHM), is one of those HHD students, and this is his story.

Another benefit beyond the curriculum, De Jesus says, is Penn State’s vast alumni and industry network that can lead to internships and career advice.

“A connection can get you very far,” he said.

Through these types of connections, De Jesus got a position in conference services at The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center. He started on the line level, then moved up to the executive level, where he worked as a conference service manager.

De Jesus shadowed the other managers, had clients, planned events, and was the contact for other departments. To him, the responsibilities were not daunting.

“They prepared me to tackle all kinds of challenges while ensuring the client is happy,” De Jesus explained.

De Jesus recommends that students connect with the internship coordinator, Maria Kim. Kim, he explains, can coordinate face-to-face meetings with recruiters, and these meetings can lead to internships needed to fulfill students’ 1,000 hours of required professional hospitality work experience.

He also advises that students avoid pigeonholing themselves because the hospitality major has so much to offer. He promises that for whatever students enjoy, they will find something that matches their personality within the major.

Throughout his time at Penn State, De Jesus has done the opposite of pigeonhole himself. Through his club experiences with Hospitality Finance and Technology Professionals (HFTP) and Meeting and Events Club, a student club affiliated with the Professional Management Association (PCMA) and Meetings Professionals International (MPI), he has experienced different areas of the hospitality industry.

Paul Kelley, instructor in hospitality management and faculty adviser for HFTP, has nothing but praise for De Jesus’ efforts in reviving the club.

“Kevin has been a large reason for the rejuvenation of the club and has been personally responsible for recruiting a large percentage of the new members,” Kelley said. “Whenever I follow up with Kevin on any club matters, whatever issue I am following up on has been already handled by Kevin.”

De Jesus believes that being a leader in a student organization can make students more well-rounded and enhance college life.

“It definitely gives a lot of experience,” De Jesus says, adding, “You make your college experience what you want.”

His participation in both clubs have helped De Jesus earn scholarships. He received the HFTP-Greater Philadelphia Chapter Scholarship in November 2018 and says it means the world to him.

“This tuition-based scholarship helps alleviate some of the financial pressure that is gained from attending a university,” he explains.

De Jesus also received the PCMA Undergraduate Tuition Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to only 10 PCMA student members nationwide.

“Receiving [this scholarship] is an absolute honor,” De Jesus says. “It fills me with delight knowing that professionals in an industry that I am soon to be a part of recognize my experiences and reward me for my hard work and determination.”

After graduation, De Jesus wants to become an event coordinator. He knows that there are steps he must take to reach the career he wants, but he is not worried. He believes that the experience he has gained through clubs and internships will help him find positions to set him on the career path.

In addition to SHM, there are a variety of areas for students to study within HHD through the Departments of Biobehavioral Health, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Health Policy and Administration, Human Development and Family Studies, Kinesiology, Nutritional Sciences, and Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management. Learn more about HHD.