Making a big deal of things

Parker Coggins has a reputation. Ask her teachers, her family, her peers, or her employers about her, and the same answer will come again and again. You can count on Parker. When you ask if she can do a job, her answer is always an enthusiastic yes. That willingness to help, to work as hard as it takes, has earned her a great deal of respect in her four years at the University of South Carolina. More recently, it also earned her a $20,000 Scholarship of Excellence from The Statler Foundation.

The scholarship is awarded to select students (application is by invitation only) enrolled full-time in one of the best hotel management programs in the U.S. and planning to pursue a career in hospitality after graduating.

“I think what made me kind of stand apart to get recognized for this is the fact that I don’t say no,” Coggins says. “I want to do everything. You’re here. You might as well take advantage of it.”

Coggins, a senior hospitality management major, has certainly taken advantage of the opportunities available to her. She has served as a student ambassador and worked at the Masters (three times, with a fourth to come in 2019), the Wells Fargo Championship and the YMCA’s Camp Seafarer. She has interned at the Country Club of Lexington and stepped forward as a leader in the wedding planning and McCutchen House restaurant classes. She has been active in numerous student organizations and the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and more, all while maintaining the kind of grades that earn honors and scholarships.

“Parker is such a self motivated, highly focused student with lots of progressive hands-on experiences,” says Haemoon Oh, dean of the UofSC College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management (HRSM).  “She has a clear career plan and works hard to achieve her goals. Parker deserves this honor and many more.”

Having that hard-earned reputation paid off for Coggins with prizes like the Pooser Bicentennial Endowed Scholarship from HRSM. This year, when UofSC was invited to submit applicants for The Statler Foundation Scholarship of Excellence, her name was at the top of the list.

She stayed up until the wee hours to complete the application while working as a resident counselor at Camp Seafarer, with her father providing moral support via Facetime. She was still at camp weeks later when a text came, from her parents, with a picture of the acceptance letter and the news that she had won the $20,000 scholarship.

“One reason I appreciate UofSC is the amount of opportunities I’ve had. I probably never would have gotten this scholarship if I didn’t go here.” 

Parker Coggins

The Statler Foundation originated from the estate of hotelier Ellsworth Statler in 1928 and funds scholarships and other projects for the benefit of the hotel industry as a whole.

“A Statler Foundation scholarship speaks volumes about Parker and I am delighted that our students are being recognized at such a high level,” says Drew Martin, director of the UofSC School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management.

“It allows me to step out into the professional world on the right foot,” Coggins says. “It opens up greater opportunities for me: coming out of college debt-free and not worried and even more ready to start the next chapter.”

That next chapter will be the start of her career in the world of hospitality management, possibly as an event planner or club manager, fulfilling a dream held since childhood.

“My whole life I have been into making the littlest things the biggest things,” she says with a smile, remembering her godparents letting her create elaborate place settings for everyday breakfasts. “I just enjoy getting people together and creating a special, memorable event for them.”

That love of making moments brought her to UofSC. The hospitality management degree available and the outstanding offerings the program brings made the school her first choice, and she never looked back.

“One reason I appreciate UofSC is the amount of opportunities I’ve had. I probably never would have gotten this scholarship if I didn’t go here,” Coggins says. “I think UofSC gives us such a specialized experience outside of any other.”

From her freshman year, Coggins has built relationships with her peers as well as faculty, staff and leaders in the hospitality industry. She has relied on instructors like Jessica Chavis and Annette Hoover for knowledge put to use inside and outside the classroom.

“[Chavis] helped me get my internship, and helped me understand what my job was going to be,” Coggins says. “And when I took the wedding planning class with Miss Annette I got to learn so much about behind the scenes of wedding planning.”

Coggins says those relationships have been valuable to her experience at UofSC. “You have to make yourself known,” she says. “I feel like everybody here has my back.”

With graduation coming in May, Coggins says she is sad at the prospect of leaving her UofSC home, but ready.

“I definitely don’t want to leave, but I feel like UofSC has prepared me to be able to leave and given me the education and the opportunities and the confidence to do what I want to do,” she says. “The love and support that you feel here is really incredible.”

Asked for advice for those who hope to follow in her footsteps as a star on campus, she answers without a moment’s hesitation.

“Take every opportunity. Don’t say no. You might be stressed, but in the future you’re really going to appreciate it,” she says. “Taking advantage of every opportunity is the reason we’re here. You don’t want to leave regretting that you didn’t try something.”

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