Rising Star Awards

Every year, Florida International University’s (FIU) Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management awards 18 of their top alumni with the Rising Star Awards during a ceremony on campus. The alumni reunion takes place once a year and celebrates alumni who graduated after the year 2000. The Rising Star Award recognizes alumni who are top in their field in every aspect of the hospitality and tourism industry, from Beverage Management, to Hotel Management to Cruise Management and Restaurant Ownership and Operations. The Rising Star Awards, which started in 2019, also resulted in the school’s first official alumni reunion on campus. FIU Chaplin School grads who are honored and their families gather at the Biscayne Bay Campus.

Rising Stars Award Winners 2023

  • Sydney Chow '15, Event Management

    Senior Account Manager Factory 360

    Sydney Chow has several years of experience in corporate events, planning for guests of 50 to 3,500.

    Born and raised in Jamaica, she started her event career after a special events class with Dr. Dan Cormany at FIU. She is currently a Sr. Account Manager at Factory360, where she is extending her skillset into experiential marketing.

  • Magdalina Chung '04, Hotel Management

    Hotel Manager

    Magdalina Chung's journey into the world of hospitality was ignited by her involvement in collaborating with a professional club, where she played an integral role in organizing and co-hosting charitable events and educational conventions in various hotels. Her foray into hospitality presented her with the opportunity to work in a global setting, and this dynamic, people-centered industry fuels her determination every morning. She consistently seeks innovative ways to be creative and strives to enhance the guest experience, aiming for those unforgettable 'WOW Moments.'

    Over a career spanning more than two decades, Magdalina has been fortunate to experience both significant successes and challenging setbacks. In the early stages of her career, she absorbed feedback earnestly, using it to refine her approach. As she matured, she learned to discern which pieces of advice to embrace and which to let go. Fueled by unwavering curiosity, she embarked on a journey that led her to climb the ranks in multiple countries, including Malaysia, Australia, Switzerland, the USA, the UAE, and Qatar, where she spent the last decade. Magdalina is now taking her talents to Singapore.

    Reflecting on the past decade of her hospitality experiences, Magdalina finds her most significant accomplishment in her passion for mentoring others in the field.

  • Jara Church MS '05, Cruise Line Management

    Manager Technical Integration Disney Cruise Line, Orlando

    After graduating with her master’s in hospitality management from FIU in 2005, Jara Church joined Disney Cruise Line in Operations Integration before moving to the Marine & Technical Operations Department.

  • Jason De La Nuez '09, Beverage Management

    Executive Dir Business Development Slainte Wines

    Jason De La Nuez is the Executive Director of Business Development for Slainte Wines Inc, a leading wine brokerage servicing the cruise line and duty-free industries. Jason’s experience spans across different networks including fine dining, beverage retail, distributor sales and supplier marketing. Jason holds certifications from WSET & Court of Master Sommelier.

  • Tamika Duffus '16, Hospitality Technology

    Market IT Manager Marriott International

    Tamika Duffus is a passionate and driven hospitality professional. Duffus found her calling after graduating from FIU. With a selfless spirit, she ventured into the industry and embarked on a remarkable journey with Marriott International. From rising through management roles to taking charge of the IT department during challenging times, her leadership and ingenuity have been at the forefront of delivering exceptional guest experiences through technology.

  • Fabiana Ferro '13, Hospitality Human Resources

    Director of People Operations 1 Hotels Miami

    Fabiana Ferro had always aspired to pursue a career in the hotel industry. Fabiana says, “FIU guided me to the Disney College Program and supported my journey across the seas to Macau.” Ferro started her HR career with the historic hotel, The Biltmore, and went on to experience The Breakers while overseeing multiple properties. Now, Ferro is the HR Director of the 1 Hotel South Beach and strives to be a platform for change in all that she can do.

  • Patrick Lingle '01, Restaurant Management

    Executive Restaurant Leader Planta

    Patrick is a Miami Beach resident and has worked at many South Florida hotspots, including Prime One Twelve, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino & Life House Hotels. He has a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, as well as a master’s in finance, from Florida International University.  He has also worked as senior Vice President at CB5 Hospitality, where he focused on unique food and beverage conceptualization and operations for the boutique hotel industry. His career path eventually led him to fall in love with the plant-based lifestyle, and he is passionate about expanding the plant-based movement around the globe with PLANTA, where he currently oversees its operations in Florida. He is also an ambassador for The Burnt Chef Project, a global group of passionate hospitality leaders looking to end the stigma of mental health.

  • David Maggard, MAI, MSIRE '13, MS '14, Real Estate

    Valuation Service Director | Miami Colliers Valuation & Advisory Services

    David Maggard is a Commercial Real Estate Appraiser for Colliers Valuation and Advisory Services. Mr. Maggard is also an Adjunct Professor for two courses at Florida International University. First course is Investment Analysis focused on hotels and the second course is Basic Appraisal Theory focused on Commercial Real Estate. He obtained an undergraduate degree from the Chaplin School of Hospitality in 2013 and a master’s in international real estate from the Chapman Graduate School of FIU.

  • Julie Monteleone '04, Revenue Management

    Regional Director of Revenue Management Shared Services, Americas Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

    Julie’s journey through hospitality became grounded through her years in FIU’s Hospitality program living at Bay Vista and serving as a Teaching Assistant for both Financial Accounting and Culinary Event Management classes.  Although this chapter ended in 2004, the knowledge, experiences and relationships garnered have fostered dynamic advancements within Urban and Resort properties across continents from established brands to independent portfolios.  A favorite moment at FIU that ignited her aspiration to one day work for Four Seasons was attending a Saturday Dean’s Lecture at The Koven’s Center featuring Isadore Sharp – a moment that continues to foster her dedication at Four Seasons and homage to FIU.  

  • Kasner Myrie '16, Hotel Operations-Rooms Division

    Complex Senior Rooms Ops Manager Marriott International

    Kasner Myrie, a proud graduate of FIU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality & Tourism Management, boasts a decade of dedicated service with Marriott International, a milestone achieved in September. Myrie takes immense pleasure in their work and has had the opportunity to reside in various states since graduation. Presently, as a Senior Leader in the Rooms Division, Myrie harbors aspirations of ascending to the role of General Manager, with a steadfast commitment to advancing their career.

  • Roshane Pearson '16, Hotel Sales & Marketing

    Sales Manager Courtyard by Marriott

    Roshane Pearson is originally from Ocho Rios, Jamaica and was raised in Fort Lauderdale, Fl. Rosshane’s love for the Hospitality industry began as a child, traveling with his dad when he worked for United Airlines. The love grew stronger as he discovered all the exciting segments the industry had to offer and began his career with Starwood at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort in F&B. After graduating from FIU, Pearson got his foot in the operations door with the Courtyard by Marriott Coral Springs where he fell in love with sales & marketing. Pearson went on to lead the sales efforts and went on to break barriers with numerous Marriott brands including Fairfield by Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, and Springhill by Marriott. Pearson says, “It's not the journey that means the most to me it’s the people that I can impact along the way.”

  • Barbara Penalver '16, Catering Management

    Catering Coordinator The Palms Hotel & Spa

    Barbara Penalver has been in the hospitality industry for 7 years, with a focus on event management.

    In her early years, she worked in both corporate and social events. Penalver’s current focus and path is solely on socials and weddings.

Rising Stars Award Winners 2022

  • Patricia Aguilar MS '12, Event Management


    Patricia Aguilar is Venezuelan born and raised and an engineer by major.

    Patricia fell in love with events after taking a cooking course and helping the chef prep for his catered events. 

    After graduating with her master’s degree in hospitality management in 2012, she had the amazing opportunity to be assistant event manager for several south beach wine and food festival events. She started working in the pharmaceutical meetings world after graduating and stayed in the field for a decade.

    Today she is the Senior Project Manager for MCI USA in Miami.

  • Roseline Bien-Aime '05, Hotel Sales & Marketing


    Roseline Bien-Aime, ’05 was born and raised in Miami, Roseline is one of 11 children. 

    She graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School and was a member of AOHT, the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism. after attending Miami Dade College, Roseline transferred to FIU.

    She is currently the sales manager at the Loews Miami Beach hotel.

    Roseline says the Loews is her second home. She has spent the last 22 years at the Loews. in sales.

    Roseline loves her role, which she says is meeting people from all over and building long-lasting relationships.

  • Jhonatan Cano '09, Restaurant Management - Corporate


    Jhonatan Cano was born and raised in Lima, Peru, Hhonatan’ moved to the USA in 2007 and enrolled into FIU’s hospitality management program.

    After graduation in 2009, Jhonatan began his career working for Hilton at the Waldorf Astoria Boca Raton and Conrad Miami. 

    Later, he joined acclaimed chef Jose Andres’ team as manager and wine director for Mi Casa located at the Ritz Carlton reserve in Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico, 

    Staying with the company, he made his move to Washington, D.C., to successfully lead the operations of Jose Andre’s flagship, minibar. 

    Jhonatan’s professionalism and dedication were instrumental in minibar’s achievement of 4 stars by the Washington Post, two Michelin stars, and numerous nominations by the James Beard Foundation.

    He currently is the Director of Operations & Partner for Chef Ryan ratino’s one Michelin star Bresca and two Michelin stars jont in the nation’s capital.

    Jhonatan believes that investing in the growth and career development of the team is the best strategy to move companies forward.

  • Rachel Chang '01, MS '05, Hotel Development


    Rachel Chang is a two-time FIU hospitality graduate—class of 2001 and 2005.

    Rachel brings an impressive 17 years of experience in advisory, valuation and disposition services for hospitality-related developments throughout the united states. 

    Currently, her focus is lodging valuation and advisory throughout the State of fForida and the Caribbean with Cushman & Wakefield, where she is a director in their hospitality and gaming group. 

    Her expertise ranges from hotels and resorts, to fractional ownerships ,and mixed-use developments. 

    She has also appraised office and industrial buildings, retail stores, and land tracts. 

    Her work is crucial to analyses, mergers and acquisitions, foreclosures, and financing for her company.

    Rachel currently advises FIU hospitality students as a guest lecturer. She also serves on the school's hospitality real estate task force, and is on the advisory panel for FIU's executive women of influence program.

  • Christopher Guidice '14, Hotel Management


    Christopher Guidice is a passionate hospitality professional. 

    He began working as a busboy at 14 years old in his hometown beach club. 

    He worked in multiple positions and departments within restaurants and hotels, spanning multiple cities during the last 15 years. Currently, he’s the director of hotel operations at the Waldorf Astoria Atlanta.

  • Vanessa Heredia '09, Cruise Line Management - Onboard Operations


    Vanessa Heredia is a reliable and hard working team member at Norwegian Cruise Line.

    She is the Manager of Onboard Revenue Operations and is enthusiastic about her role in the company. She loves helping making guest memories, while enjoying some family, beach and travel time- not to forget grateful yoga classes for a balanced life!

  • Robert Walter James '18, Hotel Operations - Rooms Division


    Born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Robert Walter James, class of 2018 is our rising star.

    Robert graduated cum laude from FIUs Chaplin School of Hospitality in 2018 with a 3.62 GPA.

    He is currently serving as front office manager at the brand-new Hilton Aventura, Miami.

  • Ashli Johnson MS '10, Hospitality Educator


    Known as the hospitality sharp shooter, Ashli Johnson brings nearly 20 years of leadership, consulting and academic experience with top hospitality brands to her role as inaugural executive director of the Marriott Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership at Howard University. 

    At Howard, she continues the work of creating a more equitable and inclusive hospitality industry for black professionals; in this first of its kind role, Ashli is tasked with building a pipeline of black executive level talent and entrepreneurs to lead the hospitality industry.

  • Ryan Jove MS '13, Beverage Management


    Ryan is a people focused servant leader with nearly 10 years of beverage alcohol experience. He currently serves as the Vice President, General Manager of the Artisans and Estates Division at Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits of Florida.

  • Jared Magness '16, Revenue Management


    Jared Magnese is from Baltimore, Maryland . 

    He loves to travel, with Asia being his favorite destination. those new adventures result in learning new cultures and practices from around the world, which make Jared a better leader.

    Jared is currently the Director of Revenue Management at Crescent Hotels & Resorts in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Giancarlo Novo '00, Cruise Line Management - Customer Relations


    Giancarlo Novo is a seasoned hospitality management graduate with over 24 years in the hospitality industry. 

    He is currently a personal vacation planner & business-to-business account executive with Carnival Cruise Line, the largest cruise line in the world. 

    He met his wife in a hospitality class at FIU called "Information Systems in Hospitality Management”. They are married with 2 beautiful girls, Isabella 21 and Alexa 17.

  • Alejandro Puga '14, Restaurant Management






    Alejandro Puga has been on an upward trajectory since he graduated from the Chaplin School.

    He currently works as an LBW manager at Fleming’s Steakhouse in Coral Gables. 

    His main goals are to uphold the highest standards of service in the industry and to build an expert team of wine connoisseurs.

  • Denise Valdez Ramos '04, Hospitality Human Resources


    Denise Valdez Ramos has had a successful career of over 20 years in Human Resources Management. 

    Her work has spanned from Michelin star restaurants, to luxury hotels in major cities, including New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Miami. She has worked for Hyatt, Hilton, Kimpton and sbe Hotels as well as Hakkasan restaurant group. additionally, while in New York, Denise was also the owner of a grocery store in Brooklyn for nine years.

    Today, Denise is the regional vice president of people & culture for Kimpton hotels & restaurants, a prominent boutique hotel group. 

    In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the people & culture function for all of their properties on the eastern coast of the united states, in addition to Honduras and Grand Cayman. 

    In summer of 2020, Denise founded a virtual high school student program, executive excellence for high school students. with this program, Denise has focused on developing the business and professional skills of high school students while exposing them to career options and assisting in their college preparation.

    She currently resides in Miami with her husband, two sons and daughter.

  • Katherine Reyes '18, Hotel Management Boutique


    Katherine Reyes began her career working at the front desk at the local house, 

    By the age of 20, she was promoted to general manager. That’s because she effectively led and managed a team for scaled growth focused on lessening their carbon footprint. 

    Her mission today is to cultivate sustainable tourism and genuine hospitality.

  • Andreas Schreiner '00, Restaurant Entrepreneurship


    Andreas Schreiner is the founder and CEO of Schreiner Hospitality, a hospitality management company, with headquarters in Miami, Florida.

    Andreas has over 20 years of hospitality experience. He is the founder and operator of Miami’s best, new upscale restaurant Leku at the Rubell Museum. 

    He is also the co-founder and former president of the acclaimed Pubbelly Hospitality Group, conceptualizing, planning, implementing and managing the inner and outer workings of over 15 unique and successful restaurant and hospitality brands, where he was distinguished as one of Miami's most versatile entrepreneurs.

  • Emily Welch '16, Catering Management


    Emily Garcia Welch is the current Senior Catering Sales Executive at the College Park Marriott and Conference Center in Washington D.C. She has spent the past seven years cultivating her skill set with Marriott International throughout the Maryland and Washington, DC area.

  • Maria Zamora '15, MS '16, Hotel Food & Beverage


    Maria Zamora graduated from FIIU with a bachelor and master’s degree in hospitality management in 2015 and 2016.

    She joined Marriott International back in 2016, as Human Resources Generalist, but decided to expand her knowledge and passion and get experience in the operations field, especially in the food and beverage world. 

    Maria has worked at many properties, from the Ritz-Carlton, to Marriott International, to W hotels. Now she is at Marriott OSC Corporate.