Making guests feel at home when they are away is just one vital aspect of Emily (Kopp) Bowen's position as Revenue and Guest Relationship Manager for Penn State Hospitality Services.
"Every day is different. It keeps me on my toes and allows me to be creative," Bowen said about her favorite aspect of her job. "I love doing little extras for our guests when they’re not expecting it. Hotel stays can be so much fun, and anything I can do to keep that experience fresh for our guests is exciting to me."
Over the past four years Bowen has overseen such tasks as revenue management for the Nittany Lion Inn and Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center; strategic planning and direction for Reservation Department operations; Channel Management for GDS reservations, which are online travel agent services; packaging and promotion development; social media management; concierge service development; and execution.
She explained that hospitality is a concept, an ideal that has to be a part of who you are.
"We have an opportunity to make an impact on hundreds of people every single day, and each individual person matters. You never know the impact that you could have on someone’s day," Bowen said.
Bowen described the hospitality field as being a competitive climate; therefore, going above and beyond is a necessary component.
"If you have the ability to do great work, then be great every day. Just doing well is not good enough in this field," Bowen said.
Prior to working for Penn State, Bowen spent 10 years in the field at two large beach resorts. Four of those years were at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., where she succeeded in helping to open a $15 million luxury beachfront renovation project which included premium bungalows with personalized concierge service.
At that time, Bowen said she had the opportunity to meet "an amazing array of people - celebrities, professional athletes and team owners and owners/executives of Fortune 500 companies."
Bowen also worked at implementing and enhancing critical life safety initiatives at ocean resorts. As part of that initiative, she had the opportunity to work with various beach patrols, many of which were tied into county emergency service networks. A portion of the training entailed the use of jet skis and wave runners. One of the beach patrols was ranked as the top in the state of Florida.
While working at Sea Island, Ga., she assisted in the preparation and execution of the 2004 Presidential G8 Summit.
Bowen, 34, currently resides in State College with her husband Scott and two sons, Ethan and Crosby. She is the daughter of Jim and Bonnie Kopp of St. Marys and the sibling of Ben and Graham Kopp.
Bowen said her family is among the factors that have contributed to her success.
"My awesome family never blinked an eye when I said I wanted to take a summer job in Florida, and they put up with all of my crazy plans that got me to where I am today," Bowen said.
While growing up in St. Marys, Bowen was a member of the Queen of the World Church, where she eventually returned to have both of her sons baptized in an effort to keep mer hometown connection.
Following graduation at Elk County Christian High School in 1995, Bowen attended Penn State University and obtained a bachelors degree in Recreation/Parks/Tourism Management.
Initially Bowen began her college career as a special education major because she said she wanted to make a difference. At that time, she learned about an option for Therapeutic Recreation, using activity as therapy for people with disabilities.
"I guess it only seems natural that I moved into the hospitality business…I just have a different and much bigger market of people that use leisure activity as 'therapy,'" Bowen joked, adding that working for Disney didn’t hurt either.
She noted that among the challenges she faces in her career is that she lacks a "pause" button, explaining that one project stimulates an idea for the next.
"Combine that with an ever-changing list of operational responsibilities, and it’s easy to become frustrated with not having enough time," Bowen said. "To be successful, you have to push; always look for opportunities to improve yourself and your product. Being a leader takes effort. It’s not something that stops when you close your office door. You have to find where that passion lies within you and it’s different for every person."
She emphasized the importance of how motivation must come from within.
"Once you find that-- what motivates you, the possibilities are endless-- and that is what’s exciting! When you start waking up with solutions and ideas to give an even better experience to your guests or your team, you know you’re good at what you do," Bowen said.
Bowen said she was once interviewed with a director who informed her that he almost hired her based on the fact that she was from Pennsylvania.
"The work ethic and values that people are raised with, I think particularly in small towns, is something that is well-known and respected," she said. "I love the city…but I moved back to a small town to raise my family. I think the personal connection in a small town is much stronger, and at the end of the day, it’s your family and people around you that are important."
Bowen has stayed true to her word in returning to the region. She said her future plans entail "raising good, sweet, respectful men and having a happy home. Everything else is a bonus."
Outside of work, Bowen said her family enjoys getting as much beach time as possible, because in her opinion, "A sandy house is a happy house." The family members are also seasoned travelers and attend as many Atlanta Braves baseball games as possible, noting Atlanta is where her husband is from.
"We are always on the go…not many quiet moments in my life! Just the way I like it," Bowen said.