Faces of the Valley: Highland graduate Josephine Vance wins prestigious $25,000 Statler Foundation Scholarship at IUP

If her dream came true, Highland graduate Josephine Vance would one day work as a Disney wedding planner and coordinate events in the happiest place on earth.

A senior at Indiana University in Pennsylvania, Vance just got a major boost toward his goal, winning the prestigious Statler Foundation Merit Scholarship worth up to $25,000. It can be used to pay for tuition, books, and other fees.

“I was so happy and so shocked,” Vance, 22, said.

“My family was just over the day the award was given. I came home from work and opened the letter and started crying. It boosted my confidence because I was like, ‘You know , I can really do it if I put my mind to it.

The academic scholarship is awarded for character and commitment to industry.

This summer, Vance worked as an intern at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg, an event and accommodation venue specializing in weddings.

Vance enjoyed working behind the scenes to be part of events ranging from elaborate and rustic to small and intimate.

“Wedding planning is something I’ve always wanted to do and working in that field as an intern this summer made me fall in love even more,” Vance said. “Seeing different visions and helping bring them to life, making someone’s perfect day happen, I loved that.

“I really enjoy working with people – it can be frustrating at times, but I know that’s what I want to do.”

The Statler Foundation Scholarship was established from the estate of the late hotelier Ellsworth M. Statler. A self-made millionaire who rose from bellboy to industry legend, Statler founded the largest hotel chain of his day.

Vance specializes in hospitality, catering, tourism and event management.

A resident of Harrison, she is on the Dean’s List and a member of the Student Activities Committee and the Meetings Professional International Club.

She credited her advisor, Professor Stephen Shiring of IUP, for helping guide her on a career path.

The teacher said Statler’s service guidelines still apply today.

“These are golden rules that guide service behavior to create loyal customers,” he said.

“Ms. Vance exemplifies EM Statler’s dedication and passion to serving others and we are very proud of her accomplishment.

Earlier this year, the Statler Foundation donated $125,000 to IUP to build a hotel reception simulation lab for students. It is under construction in a classroom at IUP’s Eberly College of Business.

IUP’s Hospitality, Restaurant, Tourism, and Event Management program enrolls more than 100 majors each year, making it the second-largest undergraduate hospitality degree program in the state.

For Vance, working a variety of entry-level jobs has reinforced her work ethic, she said.

Since high school, Vance has worked as a waiter at Dairy Queen, a receptionist for a real estate agency, and a letter carrier.

“At the end of the day, I want to have a resume that shows I’ve grown in many ways,” she said. “These other jobs made me reflect on my strengths and made me realize that I love working with people.

“I got a glimpse of my potential future and I’m excited about what lies ahead. I am very happy that I trusted my instincts, took a leap of faith, and went to school even when it seemed scary and unreachable.

Tawnya Panizzi is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya by email at tpanizzi@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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