Erin Stephens ’11


Hometown: Milford, MA

Current Location: Kailua-Kona, HI

Why did you choose SHA?
I chose to transfer to BU’s School of Hospitality as a junior in college. Once I realized Hospitality was the right path for me, I wanted to receive the best education possible and sought out the best schools. I scheduled an interview with Assistant Dean Brian Shockley. At the time, I was just a prospective student, but he made it very clear that he cared. I will never forget sitting across from him and feeling so respected, welcomed, and inspired all at once. When I entered the school as a student, I knew I was home.

What are some of your favorite BU memories?
For me, it was meeting all my best friends. So it wasn’t a singular incident, but the years of shared memories, laughter, and growing together are ingrained in me forever. Last April, I sat in a church in Monterrey, Mexico with Emma White (SHA ’11) watching Teresa Martinez (SHA ’11) get married. I knew I had friends for life.

What was your first full-time job? How did you end up in your current position?
The day after graduation, I set out to do an extra internship abroad in Sydney at an Events and Destination Management company called MCI Australia. I worked on my own proposals for conferences, corporate incentives, meetings, and special events. The experience was invaluable. The week I returned to the States, I found out I was accepted into the AmeriCorps, which is the domestic version of the Peace Corps. I had two weeks to move to my host site in Kailua-Kona, HI to serve with Habitat for Humanity West Hawaii.

Please describe your current role. How did your SHA education impact your career?
I am currently serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA for Habitat for Humanity West Hawaii. (VISTA stands for Volunteers In Service To America). My role is Project Management. The goal of a VISTA is simple – capacity building. Our job is to create sustainable programs that increase the affiliate’s ability to serve more families. In Habitat terms, this means more donations, more volunteers, and more funds raised. I have implemented two large programs and have assisted in managing events. I am currently planning our huge Blitz Build in September, when we set out to build 5 houses in 10 days. I completed the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon to raise money for it. For me, it is the Event Management that I loved and studied in SHA, just in a nonprofit setting. Every day, I find myself reaching back into the archives of my SHA education and pulling something else out. I surprise myself sometimes by the things I need to refer back to. Prof. Szende’s F&B has helped me plan an auction dinner, and I can give a strong speech to our Board of Directors thanks to Prof. Washienko. I can mobilize 100 volunteers thanks to Prof. Oshin’s leadership class. I worked to plan a marketing strategy for our ReStore and had Prof. Buchin’s lessons as my guide. I have the courage and passion to purse my travels with David Troy’s encouragement in my heart.

Any advice for current and prospective students?
Be creative! SHA provides you with an excellent foundation. Use those invaluable lessons and combine it with a real passion of yours to find your niche. SHA can take you wherever you want to go, you just have to explore where that might be.