Kristin McElheny ’12
Hometown: Penfield, NY
What are you currently doing, and how did you get there?
I am currently a Restaurant Guest Service Manager at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort. I always dreamed of being a Disney Cast Member, since I visited the theme parks as a child. During my Junior year at UNH, I was selected to be an intern at Disney World through the Disney College Program. I had made connections with Disney Internship recruiters at the National Society for Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH) conference the previous year and they helped to guide me through the application process. For 6 months, I worked as a Food and Beverage Hostess at the Flying Fish Cafe at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. I absolutely loved every minute of working at Walt Disney World and knew I would want to go back after graduation. My senior year, the NSMH national conference was held in Washington DC, where I interviewed with a F&B Area Manager for a Management Internship. I was offered a year long Management Internship at Mama Melrose and Pizza Planet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. When the year was over, I was offered a position as a Full-Time Food and Beverage Guest Service Manager. In October 2014, I was transferred to 50’s Prime Time Cafe and Hollywood & Vine, also at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
How did UNH prepare you for life after college?
I would not be where I am today, if it were not for UNH. The Hospitality Program is filled with true to life classes and more importantly, experiential education. Students must complete both field work hours, as well as an internship. I was able to work in several different segments of the hospitality industry to learn where my true passion lies. I also worked in and managed the student run Hazell Nut Cafe. The leadership experience and Food and Beverage knowledge I gained was invaluable. The clubs and organizations in the Hospitality department help you learn about career fields and promote networking with industry professionals. The professors push students to reach their fullest potential and take a personal interest in their growth and accomplishments.
What are some of your favorite memories about your time at UNH?
While at UNH, my favorite memories revolve around the friends that I made. I was involved in many clubs, both in HTM and special interest groups. With the HTM department and clubs, we traveled all over the country! I saw cities I had never seen and made memories I will cherish forever.
What would you change about your experience at UNH, if anything?
Although some days were very challenging, looking back it was wonderful experience that thoroughly prepared me for my career in hospitality.
What advice would you give to prospective students and their families?
Trust your instincts! I was convinced that I wanted to go to another college, then I visited UNH and it felt right. Make a list of “must-haves” that you want from a university, and visit the campuses. Meet with faculty and learn about the programs. Choose a place that makes you feel at home, since it will be for your next 4 years!