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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

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Marching to her own beat

Posted on: May 4, 2017
By: Allen Wallace,, 803-777-5667

Sarah Brinks’ college life started with a clarinet and a pressure-packed audition. That moment set the stage for an academic career marked by the willingness to take on new challenges and embrace the unexpected—a theme that shows no signs of stopping as Brinks takes the next step on her career journey.

A talented clarinet player, Brinks earned a scholarship audition with the South Carolina marching band—despite never having been in a marching band before.

"The only way I could come to South Carolina was on that scholarship,” the Maryland native said. “If I didn't pass band camp, I couldn't have gone to school here."

She did pass, and after taking a wedding planning class “just for fun” her freshman year, Brinks discovered her love for hospitality management.

"I fell completely in love with it and switched my major to hospitality," Brinks said.

She never looked back and focused her hospitality studies on food and beverage management and event planning. She interned at Sea Pines resort and Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens, and on May 5 she will graduate from the University of South Carolina and start her career with a job in hand at an unlikely place—Clemson.

I fell completely in love with it and switched my major to hospitality.

—Sarah Brinks '17, Hospitality Management

Brinks has accepted a management position with Aramark, one of the world’s leading providers of food, facilities and uniform services for businesses. Working at their Clemson offices, she will be part of the company’s Accelerate in Leadership program, spending her first year learning management roles and then working with the company’s matchmaking service to choose her specialty.

"It all started with a resume review session here in the Coliseum” at USC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management (HRSM) in January, Brinks said.

As many companies do, Aramark sent recruiters to campus to search for talented young professionals, and that day, one of the executives doing the interviews happened to be a leader of the company’s Clemson offices. She interviewed on her birthday and had a job offer in hand less than a week later.

She found plenty of support and wisdom offered by the HRSM faculty and staff, but said instructor Jessica Chavis was an especially big influence.

“She's done everything from sitting down with me for hours and working on my resume to helping introduce me to people,” Brinks said. "She's really incredible. She has so many people but somehow she still makes it a point to make you feel important."

The preponderance of orange at her new job may be an adjustment for a Gamecock, but Brinks is excited and isn’t fazed by life’s ironies. “It’s still familiar,” she said of the Upstate location. As a hospitality leader, it’s only natural for her to warmly welcome a would-be rival—although she is quick to note she will always be a Gamecock.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.