College of Education and Human Development - George Mason University

Tourism and Events Management student’s full-time dream job fulfills internship requirement

July 2, 2019

By Greg Sullivan

Most students would like to have a full-time job lined up when they graduate.

In one sense, College of Education and Human Development senior Elizabeth Allen just landed hers a little early.

Through her own perseverance as a non-traditional student and the help of the bachelor’s degree program in Tourism and Events Management (TEM) at George Mason, Allen was recently named director of special events at the International Country Club in Fairfax. She will graduate this summer following her work experience practicum course and is this week’s Division of Sport, Recreation, and Tourism intern of the week.

Mason is allowing her to use her full-time job to complete the work component of the internship course, which she’s now enrolled in. Thanks to that flexibility, Allen was easily able to accept the job when it was offered. She’ll just need to keep a journal of her work and give a presentation at the end of the course.

“It’s exciting. I run all of the private and member events at the country club and plan all of them,” the 26-year-old Chantilly native said. “I started in the busy spring season, so it was a lot at first. But I’m getting the hang of the job already.”

The TEM program requires all of its students to seek faculty-supervised volunteer or paid fieldwork experiences in the field of tourism, hospitality, and events management during their study.

Allen has worked at the International Country Club for the past six years and was promoted to her new role this spring from a part-time position in catering.

The country club has been around for more than 50 years and features a large clubhouse facility along with golf and a variety of other sports and activities. In her new job, Allen oversees all club member events and also plans other events like weddings, corporate outings, and other large gatherings for when the outside community uses the space.

Allen certainly didn’t take the shortest route to her dream job. She recalled how after high school she had no idea what she wanted to do. Even a year after she graduated, she still wasn’t sure.

“I walked into the country club where I work now, seven years ago, when I was 19,” she said. “I asked to shadow the catering director who was there at the time. I shadowed her for a day and fell in love with hospitality.”

However, that was just the beginning. She then pursued an associate’s degree at nearby Northern Virginia Community College and was able to then land a job in the field. But she’d always held a goal of finishing a bachelor’s degree and putting her career in a better overall position.

“I turned 25 and thought, oh my gosh, every year that goes by it’s going to be harder and harder to go back to school,” Allen said. “That’s when I put my career on hold to go to Mason, and I had to take a different job while I was in school with more amenable hours.”

While balancing work obligations and taking both night and summer classes, Allen made things work. She said she’s grateful her degree program was flexible and focused on helping her reach her goals.

Now she’s set to also begin a master’s degree program in hospitality and tourism management at Virginia Tech in the fall and hopes to eventually teach part-time at the college level in addition to her current job. That way, she said, she’ll be able to give back to other students like herself.

“Going back to school taught me to push through, even when it was hard,” Allen said. “Now, if anything pops up in life that’s hard, it probably won’t seem as difficult.”

Tina Jones, instructor of education and the fieldwork experience coordinator for Mason’s TEM program, said Allen’s story should inspire others.

“I have been really impressed with Elizabeth's determination and eagerness to learn,” Jones said. “She recognized the long-term value in completing her degree and was willing to put her career on hold in order to do so. I know this process was challenging for her, but she was very persistent and committed to attaining this goal.

“I have no doubt that Elizabeth will continue to thrive in her career. She has a vibrant attitude and so much passion for creating positive experiences for her clients.”