Renea Anderson will be the first to tell you that hospitality is in her blood.
The older daughter of two Walt Disney World employees, Anderson juggled the responsibilities of raising five children while pursuing her passion for the industry at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
A star student, Anderson earned some of the university’s top academic recognitions, held leadership positions in student organizations and spoke at conferences around the world.
She is among the more than 4,500 anticipated graduates at this week’s commencement ceremonies, where she will walk across the stage Friday to collect her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. More information about commencement ceremonies is available at http://commencement.ucf.edu/.
“Rosen allowed me to take an inflexible life and make it flexible,” Anderson said. “UCF gave me the inspiration for life beyond what I ever thought or could imagine.”
Anderson, whose parents began working for Disney when the resort was merely Central Florida swampland, said she has loved hospitality and tourism for as long as she can remember.
Her father started as a nighttime security guard for Disney and still works for the company as a craftsman . Her mother, now retired, worked in Disney travel under supervisor Harris Rosen, the entrepreneur who would go on to establish Rosen Hotels & Resorts and become the namesake for UCF’s hospitality college.
“I remember her mother being pregnant, Renea’s birth and celebrating that event,” Rosen said. “Today, her ‘baby’ has five babies of her own. And Renea is now contributing to the hospitality industry with her time, talent and leadership.”
Now in her 30s, Anderson abandoned pursuit of a broadcast journalism degree to start a family with her husband, Michael. She later decided to return to school and earned her associate’s degree from Valencia College before enrolling at UCF.
At UCF, Anderson’s studies have focused on corporate events. Her work with the student organization Meeting Planners International at UCF has taken her to conferences and competitions throughout the United States and in Europe.
In 2010, Anderson was honored with a Founders’ Day award, one of UCF’s highest recognitions. She also participated in the Honors in the Major program through the Burnett Honors College, where she researched generational hospitality alongside Associate Professor Po-Ju Chen.
It was at the annual Convention Management Association’s conference in Las Vegas in January that Anderson was offered the opportunity to work full-time for MeetingMatrix International, a company that designs interior spaces for meetings and has offices in New Hampshire, Hong Kong and Amsterdam.
“The CEO was in the room for my panel discussion, and he approached me and said he wanted to hire me,” explained Anderson. “I said, ‘I have five children and a mortgage. I can’t leave Orlando.’”
But the opportunity—and the promise of flexibility—proved too good to pass up. Anderson accepted the offer to work in meeting planning and marketing from home. She also is helping the company with higher education initiatives to train the future hospitality workforce.
Long-term, Anderson hopes to become involved in public policy and serve as an advocate for Orlando’s tourism and convention industry. But for now, she’s most looking forward to catching up on sleep and enjoying the holidays with her family.
“I didn’t take the easy road,” Anderson said. “I had to make my kids’ schedules in Excel spreadsheets and prepay all of my kids’ carpools before I traveled. I’ve had to come up with creative ways to make sure I can keep the plates spinning without them crashing.
“But it was go big or go home.”