Out of her friend group, Briana Napoli was always the planner, and her friends often relied on her to make reservations.
“I always like taking the lead,” she said.
Still, a career in tourism and hospitality – specifically event planning – was not something she had contemplated when she began at Montgomery County Community College as a Liberal Arts major in fall 2019. That is, until Shawn Murray, MCCC Assistant Professor of Tourism & Hospitality Management, opened her eyes to the possibilities.
“Professor Murray was a huge role model for me,” said Napoli, who switched to a Tourism & Hospitality major and received instruction from Murray in approximately nine of her 11 courses. “Montco really gave me a clear vision, a clear path of what I wanted to do. Without Professor Murray, I don’t know if I would be at Florida International University now.”
Napoli, of Philadelphia, graduated from MCCC summa cum laude and was a member of the College’s Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. Her stellar academic record, coupled with an event planning internship at a resort in Texas and her work at the Capital Grille in Cherry Hill, N.J., all helped her transfer to Florida International University in spring 2022.
“I wasn’t even looking at FIU at first,” Napoli said. “Professor Murray steered me that way.”
Through a partnership with FIU, all of her MCCC credits transferred seamlessly. She’s on track to graduate in December.
“Briana’s future is so bright,” Murray said. “I’m really proud of how she was able to take our academic programming at Montgomery County Community College and not only launch her career but transfer to one of the top hospitality & tourism schools in the world.”
Since relocating to Miami, Napoli has participated in two study abroad programs. In December 2022, she took a three-week cruise in South America, traveling to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and the Falkland Islands. While on the ship, she completed two courses, one in culinary and another in cruise operations. The timing coincided with the World Cup.
“We got to experience everything,” she said. “That’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
In February, she spent a week at the Beaches Resort in Jamaica shadowing the bartending team and events department, helping to set up weddings and learning about the legal rights required to get married outside of the U.S.
In May, Napoli began interning at a luxury event planning business in Miami, with her main duties centering on wedding and special events planning, as well as social media management and marketing. Two months into her internship, Napoli was offered a paid position at the company.
For Napoli, the opportunity is one that will allow her to continue to grow in her chosen field.
“I really would like to keep on learning as much as I can,” she said. “I’m a go-getter.”
Following graduation from FIU, Napoli wants to stay in Miami, travel, and plan destination events. She also intends to pursue a master’s degree in business to better prepare her for the ultimate goal: owning an event-planning business.
Given the competitive nature of the industry, Napoli said she’s glad to have had access to such great resources at MCCC.
“The academic knowledge I learned and experiences as a tourism student at MCCC have truly prepared me to excel as a student at FIU,” Napoli said.
Napoli switched to the Tourism & Hospitality field in the midst of the pandemic and is seeing firsthand what a booming industry it is.
“Since COVID and everyone putting their events off and cancelling and rescheduling, our industry is thriving,” she said. “Everyone is looking for a celebration now.”
Even when tourism halted in the greater Philadelphia area because of the pandemic, Murray arranged student internships in Washington State and at Yellowstone National Park undertaking nature tourism.
“Whether participating like Briana in international study abroad programming or transferring to a top university like FIU, the MCCC Tourism & Hospitality Management Program provides truly amazing career and academic experiences for students,” Murray said.
The College's Tourism & Hospitality Management Program provides excellent transfer opportunities to attend top academic institutions along with career connections with top firms such as Marriott Hotels, Kimpton Hotels, and Walt Disney Companies for students to gain industry experience.