CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–December 11, 2014. Chang Guan describes herself as a dreamer, the kind who marches to her own drum.
That will certainly be the case for the 24-year old Chinese student as she walks across the stage of the Auditorium Theatre for her master’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management on Friday, Dec. 12.
Guan came to the United States in 2012 with a goal of college and a career with a big company. She leaves the University as a true entrepreneur, recently starting one of China’s first destination management companies for business travelers and convention attendees.
“Like a lot of others from my country, I just wanted to find a good job with a big company,” said Guan, who chose Roosevelt because of its Manfred Steinfeld School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, which offers one of the nation’s leading graduate programs in hospitality management.
“But I’ve always been on a different path from others,” she said. “I’ve always had ideas and plans that I have done by myself.”
Unlike many Chinese students who work with an agency to get into college in America, Guan took matters in her own hands in choosing and applying to Roosevelt’s hospitality program after interviewing with program director Gerald Bober.
“We have many students in our graduate program who have come up with great ideas and projects,” said Bober. “The interesting thing about Chang Guan’s work here at the University is that she has gone on to implement her plan.”
Guan spent part of her first two semesters at Roosevelt learning English. By that time, her hospitality and tourism management classes were in full swing, including courses on Meetings and Event Planning Management that she took with Associate Professor Bill Host.
During the class, Guan learned about the U.S. hospitality industry’s growing destination management sector. Comprised of privately owned service companies with extensive knowledge of a specific locale’s history and culture, destination management companies or DMCs, as they are called, provide expertise in planning and designing events, tours and transportation for their clients’ out-of-town guests to the locale.
From there, Guan had an idea to start Link Group, a DMC servicing business clients visiting Beijing’s gigantic Zhong Guan Cun National Information Technology Park network, or “Z Park,” where Guan’s mother works and where Guan has been a summer intern.
“The United States has always been a model for the rest of the world when it comes to services like meeting and event planning,” said Host, who encouraged Guan to apply for a competitive scholarship through the Association of Destination Management Executives, which gave her an award based on her innovative idea. Hers was the first international scholarship offered by the organization.
“Frankly, there are not a lot of these kinds of companies in China and the fact that she had a vision for one that is based on what she was introduced to in our program is really significant,” said Host.
Guan completed an 80-page master’s thesis on her plan for Link Group, a DMC that has the potential to serve the needs of business visitors to an estimated 150,000 information technology businesses in Z Park’s 16 individual industrial parks.
With help earlier this fall from a business partner at Z Park, she also launched Link Group. The DMC today has 10 clients and serves a single sector of Z Park known as the Haidian Zone, home to more than 9,000 information-technology businesses and more than 775,000 employees.
After she receives her Roosevelt diploma on Friday, Guan will spend the next several months traveling America before returning to her native Beijing where she will begin implementing a 10-year plan for Link Group.
“I want to be a pioneer in this industry,” said Guan. “If one day the company could reach all 16 zones, we could have 16 different branches of Link Group in the different parks.”
Guan acknowledges there will be challenges ahead in making her master’s thesis a reality, including the need for her to network widely and find additional partners with expertise in the sciences and technology. But she is confident that now is the right time to move ahead.
“In my country, returning students are being encouraged to develop businesses,and Link Group will be an innovation,” she said.