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March 2015

Kristina Trainer


Growing up, Kristina Trainer watched her family operate a diner along an interstate in Bethel, Pennsylvania. Years prior, her family made a strategic move by opening a third diner near the latest means of travel. Eventually, she would work as a cashier and server at the one diner remaining in the group, still open for business decades later right along the interstate.

When Trainer came to Penn State as a freshman she had not yet decided on a major, but she was pondering the idea of public relations. It was not until she learned about the School of Hospitality Management (SHM) that she realized her career ambition.

“I had this passion for creating experiences for people,” Trainer said.

More than 4,500 Penn State students are enrolled in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) studying a wide-array of fields, each committed to the concept of improving the quality of life for others. Trainer, who found a home in SHM, is one of those HHD students, and this is her story.

It was not until Trainer started taking various hospitality management courses that she fully understood the skills required to own and manage a hospitality business, like she saw her family do for years.

As a teenager, she would ask her family, “Why can’t we get a new cash register? Why can’t we just hire more employees?” Through SHM courses, Trainer learned running a hospitality business is much more complex and solutions to her questions as a young teen were not quite that simple.

“I grew up seeing these problems, but now I see they are all part of how a business generally functions,” Trainer said.

When Trainer graduates in May and begins her market associate position with a popular discount travel website in a major city, she will still be able to assist her family remotely by overseeing company financials.

“I have always wanted to move away to a city,” Trainer said. “Now, with the classes I’m taking and with what I’m learning, I can help with financial tracking and accountability of managers from anywhere.”

At Penn State, Trainer was not drawn to the operational side of the hospitality industry, but instead to the area of hotel sales, development, acquisition and real estate.



“I wanted to do public relations originally and hotel sales is kind of being the face of the hotel, really selling it and being the public relations person for the hotel, so it’s kind of come together in that sense,” Trainer said. “I’m attracted to the aspects that makes the assets move. I like the big picture part of it, such as hotel sales or keeping occupancy up. In hospitality management you can graduate and be a manager of a hotel’s front desk or housekeeping, but I want to help the bigger picture and help fill those rooms or help decide what hotels to build or buy.”

It was Trainer’s mentor, Jay Lynn, a SHM alum and major market director for IHG, who helped Trainer make the most out of her Penn State experience by mentioning the Hotel Sales and Marketing club previously available at University Park. Once an active club, but dormant in recent years, Trainer decided to reestablish it under the advisement of Associate Professor David Cranage.

“Some techniques you do not learn from a textbook, such as cold-calling. We’re really trying to emphasize students learning sales skills,” Trainer said. “With this club, you can go out and practice your cold-calling by doing things like sales blitzes and hearing from people in those roles and then graduate knowing more about the field and your career options.”

Still in its preliminary stages, Trainer hopes to see the club sustainable before her graduation. The goal is to see the club’s first “sales blitz” over spring break in March. A sales blitz is where club members work out a deal with a hotel allowing the students to stay in the hotel for free and in exchange the students will make cold-calls to drum up reservations for meetings and conferences in the hotel.

“Hospitality has various aspects. The traditional ones are often taught in the classroom, but there are many exciting and non-traditional aspects you can take on that require a certain type of personality and set of skills and you cannot always learn just from listening to lectures,” Trainer said.

In addition to HPA, there are a variety of areas for students to study within HHD through the Departments of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Health Policy and Administration, Human Development and Family Studies, Kinesiology, Nutritional Sciences, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, and the School of Hospitality Management. Learn more about HHD.