Stepping into a new role can be a little bit daunting – but not if it’s within a field you’re passionate about, says Erin Schrepfer, the Program Manager for the Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Administration program at Nunez Community College.
“In every new job,” she says, “new skills are learned, new contacts are made, new ways of doing things are presented; however, if it’s done in an industry or area that you’re passionate about, then it’ll continue to be new and exciting.”
Schrepfer was eager to step into the role this past summer, providing her with an opportunity to teach students about our city’s most important industry while also preparing them for real, viable careers. For Schrepfer, the tourism industry is key not only to her job but also to the jobs of so many of her students. Moreover, New Orleans’ dedication to tourism means the city inherently takes care of its own, from preserving beautiful buildings to continuing centuries-old culinary traditions. Without it? “There would probably be a lot more chemical plants along the river,” she says. Read more about Schrepfer in our full interview below.
How long have you lived in New Orleans?
I’ve lived in New Orleans since the summer of 2004, but have had family here since the 1960s.
What do you love most about this city?
What I love most about New Orleans is that it is anything you want it to be. It has architecture that is both [grandiose] and simple, cuisine that serves as a physical representation of its historical and contemporary history. Somehow, it houses a harmonious balance of multiple types of music and arts for enjoyment. The city is steeped in tradition, yet is always willing to accommodate new reasons to gather and celebrate – like festivals, parades, dining opportunities and meeting places.
Tell us about your role at Nunez Community College.
Currently I serve as the Program Manager for the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration Program at Nunez Community College in Chalmette, Louisiana. I teach classes in hospitality, lodging and hospitality marketing that help students gain a well-rounded understanding of the hospitality field, how it works and what career growth opportunities are available within it. In addition to teaching classes, I spend a lot of time meeting with, networking and maintaining connections in the industry; promoting our program to prospective high school students and those already in the industry; and partnering with administrators of both area parish school systems and two-year and four-year universities to continue to promote hospitality and culinary education as a viable necessity for the continued strength of the tourism industry. While our program is still considered young, our associates program is built to industry specifications and is designed to give students a solid platform in business and hospitality knowledge with industry-based certifications built in.
What path led you to this point in your career? How did your career in tourism begin?
My maternal grandfather was in the Coast Guard and my paternal grandfather was a petroleum engineer, so of course my parents grew up all around the world. Although they met and married here in the Big Easy, I grew up with the amazing stories of both sides of the family abroad – not to mention that my house was practically a museum of items collected from the globe; therefore, it was a natural progression for me to consider the hospitality field. In high school, I had the opportunity to travel to Europe a couple of times and that, I believe, is what cinched my love of hospitality and travel.
While completing an undergraduate degree from Our Lady of Holy Cross College, now University of Holy Cross, I did an internship planning an association meeting for the Travel and Tourism Research Association and knew at that point that I loved the logistical opportunities that meeting planning yielded. Immediately after graduating from Holy Cross, I enrolled in UNO’s Master’s Degree program for Hotels, Restaurants and Tourism and quickly secured another internship for [what is now] AlliedPRA New Orleans. While there I learned the secrets of meeting and special events planning as well as account and sales management – and met so many wonderful people in the process!
After about 5.5 years in the DMC world, I signed on to Sodexo at Tulane University as their Director of Conference Services, where I partnered directly with Tulane’s Conference Services Team as well as internal and external clients to harness the resources Tulane University has to support meeting and special events. While there I learned about contract food services, marketing, and am proud to have had a part in the opening of Yulman Stadium.
When the Program Manager position came available at Nunez Community College last summer, I knew it was my chance to teach about an industry that I am so very passionate about. So very lucky am I that they chose me to head the hospitality program!
What do you love most about your job?
I am so very fortunate that I get to teach one of the most fascinating and fastest growing segments in the world! This industry is extremely broad, amazingly diverse and immensely complex; what’s more, there’s literally a position for everyone in this industry – no matter your education, skill set, or interests! I am responsible for arming students with the knowledge that Hospitality, Culinary, Tourism and Special Events fields need lawyers, accountants, revenue managers, sales managers and general managers in addition to the traditional front line employees like housekeepers and waiters. The industry needs tactile individuals skilled in culinary arts, mixology, wine and the like. It needs engineers, architects, marketing specialists, and security professionals. It needs revolutionary thinkers to develop new tourism services and products and it needs data managers and research analysts to track the growth and viability of the industry. I know that there are these types of positions there because I’ve seen them.
What advice would you give to other New Orleanians or your peers about choosing a positive career path, perhaps in the tourism industry?
Choose a career path that allows you to learn a wide range of skill sets in areas that you’re already passionate about. In every new job, new skills are learned, new contacts are made, new ways of doing things are presented; however, if it’s done in an industry or area that you’re passionate about, then it’ll continue to be new and exciting.
How is your job personally affected by tourism?
If hospitality was not an important economic generator in New Orleans, then the need for individuals trained in how to manage tourism or hospitality-based businesses would not be as prevalent. Luckily for me, though, there are tens of thousands of jobs that support hospitality and tourism – all of which need front line employees, managers, and other individuals with the appropriate training. It’s my job – and my passion – to learn what the current trends, needs and the direction this industry is taking, and then present it in a fun and inspiring way.
What does tourism mean to you as a local?
Tourism means that we all have the opportunity to showcase one of the most unique cultures in the world. It’s the proof that the old-world ways still have a place in the new world.
What do you think the city of New Orleans would look like without tourism?
The city of New Orleans would be very different without tourism. I think that a good majority of the smaller buildings uptown and the French Quarter would probably not be historically preserved like they are now. We wouldn’t have near the variety of foods we have now, what with fusion cuisine and the like. There would probably be a lot more chemical plants along the River.
New Orleans Will…
…always be phenomenal.