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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

  • Wendy Olliff stands with a group of students who have gone to California for 2020 Professional Convention Management Association Convening Leaders conference  in San Francisco in January.

Non-traditional student finds her path to a college degree and a career in hospitality at UofSC

By Allen Wallace,
Posted on May 1, 2020

A military veteran and single mother, Wendy Olliff had taken scattered college classes at various schools throughout her life, but a clear path to earning a degree had been challenging. With her daughter finally in high school and time running out to use her GI Bill funds, Olliff decided the time was right to complete a degree, but was unsure of how to get there. "I kind of felt lost,” Olliff says about her arrival at the University of South Carolina. “I didn't really have a path." 

That changed when she met Collin Crick, director of enrollment management and professional development with South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. He told her about the bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and the accelerated bachelor’s to master’s program offered by the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. He also introduced her to members of the faculty, and she knew she had found her path. 

"The entire faculty was so wonderful. I felt like I just kind of fit in,” she says. “Hospitality is part of the name of the college and it really fits.” 

The interdisciplinary program allowed Olliff to make the best use of her credits earned at other schools and through her military service. She made hospitality her focus, and the accelerated program allowed her to take several classes that counted toward both her bachelor’s degree and the master’s degree she hopes to complete by 2021. 

The veteran made the most of the opportunity, taking more classes per semester than most students and excelling all along the way. She earned the Academic Excellence Award this spring, and also volunteered on campus. Encouraged by faculty, Olliff represented the college at the 2020 Professional Convention Management Association Convening Leaders conference in San Francisco in January, which helped boost her interest in the sustainability aspect of the hospitality and tourism industry. 

Olliff said making friends as a nontraditional student in her 30s was not easy, but the college faculty and staff made her feel welcome. “I haven’t run across a single one who won’t bend over backwards to help me,” she says. 

With one degree complete and another in sight, Olliff laughs when she says faculty members are already encouraging her to go on to a Ph.D. “This is such a great college,” she says. “It's been a completely different experience from what I expected, and the people really make it.” 

Find out more about the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management.

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