Yolanda Suarez

Degree: Bachelor’s in Hospitality Management

College/School: Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management

As a freshman, sitting quietly among thousands of other students at a National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH) conference, listening to speeches from student leaders, Yolanda Suarez told herself “I’m going to be on that stage one day.”

Fast forward to her senior year. Not only did she get on the stage, she was elected to be the National Programs Director for NSMH, representing 86 school chapters and thousands of students nationwide.

The once shy young woman who overcame a fear of public speaking, whose favorite TV program at five was Chef Emeril Lagasse’s “Bam!” show, told her parents while sitting on a playground swing that she wanted to become a chef.

Without a culinary program, FIU’s hospitality management program proved a wiser more economic choice for the daughter of an IT professional from Puerto Rico and a stay-at-home mom from Italy who sacrificed to purchase a Florida prepaid college plan.

At FIU, Yolanda led students to conferences; got hotels and other hospitality organizations to donate food and products to the homeless; completed an internship program at Disney World, and was a student lead at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

The go-getter also was nominated to be part of the Hospitality Student Advisory Board.

After graduation, Yolanda will join the Hilton Management Development Program. She was one of only 50 out of 600 applicants selected for the program, guaranteeing her a management-level position with Hilton Worldwide.