Andy Bautista

Degree: Bachelor of Science Hospitality & Tourism Management

College: Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management

Andy Bautista’s dream had always been to play football while attending FIU, and then head to the NFL. He had no idea that his path would lead him to the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management – and seven attempts to see part of his dream come true. 

As a high school senior, Andy applied to FIU. His football stats were great, but his grades were not. In fact, his application for admission to FIU was rejected seven times. But he didn’t let that stop him, and instead he reached out to FIU's Director of University Admissions, who told him that he needed to complete developmental classes to be considered for admission.

Every day, for an entire year, Andy drove from Florida Keys College, where he was taking classes, to FIU for tutoring sessions in math and English. Then, in the summer of 2017, he was admitted to FIU under the Supported Transition to Excellence (STEP) summer program and made it as a walk-on to the FIU football team. Although he was ineligible to play football the first year, he stayed on track and in year two, qualified for the team academically and athletically.

During his second year on the team, Andy found a lump on his chest that doctors eventually confirmed was cancer. The lump was removed, but in less than a month, the cancer returned. Andy made the decision that it was time to hang his helmet and walk away from football forever.

Giving up the sport he loved since he was a little boy, Andy left the team and continued to strive in the classroom. His path led him to apply to the Honors College in 2019. He changed his major to hospitality and tourism management. 

Andy's perseverance, tenacity and hard work has paid off. He has made the Dean's list every semester since he started at FIU and will graduate Cum Laude with a 3.6 GPA. He is the first in his family to receive a college degree and is going on two years cancer free. Starting this August, he will be attending graduate school at the University of Florida. 

By Ivonne Yee-Amor
Sr. Account Manager – PR & Marketing
Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management

Nominated by Diann Newman