The National Association for Catering and Events (NACE) University of Houston Student Chapter took three top honors and made history at the 2019 NACE Experience Conference, held July 12-17 at the Hilton Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati. Faculty Advisor Erin Oeser Goodell (pictured center) was the first non-caterer, non-event professional ever to be recognized with the organization’s Member of the Year Award. Senior Brogen Woodward (pictured left), was honored with the prestigious Vince DeFinis Scholarship, while senior Anna Oakes took home the coveted Foundation of NACE Scholarship.
“As I was walking up to the podium to give my acceptance speech, I was filled with immense pride as I saw dozens of students and former students who have become industry successes in their own right,” Goodell said. “It was humbling to realize that maybe I had a small part of their journey by setting the foundation of lifelong leadership skills and by helping them realize the importance of NACE and relationship building.”
Many of Goodell’s former students have won several honors in their fields, while some serve or have served on the boards of NACE Houston, NACE Dallas and in other cities across the United States. Woodward and Oakes are just the latest students to be recognized on this conference platform. Goodell’s desire to mentor others is fueled by her passion for teaching and networking. She also brings more than 20 years of experience in sales, catering and events to her classroom and role as faculty advisor.
A 1998 graduate of Hilton College, she began her career in sales with Omni Hotels and Resorts, and as the convention services manager for the Westin Galleria Houston and the Westin Oaks Houston at the Galleria. While pursuing her MBA in human resources, and after accepting a position in the culinary department at The Art Institute of Houston in 2004, she knew her true calling was in the classroom.
A year later, when a position to serve as executive director of Gourmet Night became available at Hilton College, Goodell knew it was the perfect opportunity to return to her alma mater in a professional capacity. She would go on to lead the College’s signature event for the next 13 years. Gourmet Night has been a springboard for careers in catering and events for countless students, and many credit Goodell for igniting their own passions for the industry.
Almost immediately, Goodell began exposing her students to NACE. She became a member in 2006, after being appointed director of the former Hilton College Catering Institute. In 2009, she won the Houston NACE Baumann Reinhardt Member of the Year Award for her work with the UH chapter and for helping to launch other chapters around the nation. Today, the NACE UH Student Chapter is the largest in the nation. And, Goodell is always working diligently to forge valuable relationships between NACE professional and student chapters.
“I feel very strongly about the opportunities that NACE provides to professionals as well as students,” Goodell said. “There are many success stories where NACE professionals hire our graduates, and students also trust NACE to help guide them to employers who will treat them with respect and teach them the industry. These relationships are truly profound, and are never taken for granted.”
Goodell said her active involvement with NACE has made her a better teacher, as well as a better person. And, she has no plans of slowing down!
“NACE talks about legacy and how ‘you’ as an individual will be known for something,” she said. “Some contribute monetarily, and some contribute time and energy. Right now, my legacy is time, guidance, and mentorship. I want to be known as the person who launched student chapters, increased scholarship opportunities, and guided professionals into becoming lifelong NACE members. My path is, indeed, well-lit and I still have much more to give and offer others.”
Student organizations have long been the conduit for students to enter the professional world. And Goodell and her student NACE members continue to make us proud. Congrats to all!
(Story & Photo: Pearl Cajoles)
Posted on Aug. 22, 2019