Hospitality Alum Enjoys Career on the Rise

Heller College of Business Alumni Profile

by JULIAN ZENG

A Roosevelt professor of more than 12 years, Carol Brown has taught her fair share of talented students. But perhaps none have made as much of a lasting impression on the associate professor of hospitality and tourism management as Keison Arnold.

“I can’t think of a single negative thing about him,” Brown said.

Brown has known Arnold for nearly her entire tenure at Roosevelt, first encountering the Chicago native in her undergraduate Leadership and Organization Development class. She was struck by his intense work ethic and drive to maximize his time at Roosevelt — he “applied for every scholarship he could get his hands on” and obtained a number of student leadership positions toward graduating with his Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality and Tourism Management in 2009.

“I wanted to make sure my parents didn’t have that financial burden [of affording tuition],” Arnold said. “Roosevelt gave me a lot of different opportunities as a student, ones I don’t think many colleges can provide.”

And, when some opportunities didn’t immediately present themselves to Arnold, he created his own. Arnold founded and served as chapter president of Roosevelt’s National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH) in 2007, for which he led the group in volunteer work, cleaned shelters, and raised money to attend the organization’s National Conference & Career Fair in Pittsburgh, even driving there from Chicago through a snowstorm.

He was also a student mentor for the Marriott Foundation for Youth with Disabilities — among the first group of Roosevelt students to participate in the program — and a resident advisor (RA) on the Chicago Campus.

“He completely personifies our mission of social justice with these initiatives,” Brown said. “He was a perfect student leader.”

In the classroom, Arnold was just as dedicated.

“If you told Keison you wanted a 10-page paper, he’d give you 30 pages,” Brown said. “He was really hard-working, never complained. He was just a pleasure to have in class.”

Brown got another chance to teach Arnold last year, when he returned to Roosevelt to earn his Executive Master of Hospitality and Tourism Management degree, the College of Business’ one-year, fully online offering. Despite the rigorous coursework and accelerated schedule, Arnold thrived.

“He’s so driven and results-oriented. He would text me all throughout the school year with questions about his work, and then boom, he would do it,” Brown said. “He’s like a wonder student.”

While earning his one-year executive master’s, which he completed in December 2017, Arnold served as director of operations (Midwest and Southern regions) for Sodexo, one of the nation’s largest food service and facilities management companies, in Lansing, Michigan. One of his biggest accounts was with SodexoMAGIC, a joint venture with Magic Johnson Enterprises, for which he oversaw food operations and facility safety, and raised money for college student scholarships.

Working personally with the Los Angeles Lakers legend and uber-successful businessman, to no one’s surprise, was an exceptionally cool opportunity to Arnold.

“ He completely personifies our mission of social justice with these initiatives. He was a perfect student leader.”

– Carol Brown
Associate Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management

“It was great to get myself some more exposure and put myself on a bigger pedestal so that I’m able to interact with a multitude of different people,” Arnold said. “I definitely think my bachelor’s at Roosevelt prepared me for that.”

Johnson’s work with SodexoMAGIC included the Lansing Promise, a scholarship program that offers tuition assistance for post-secondary education to all eligible high school graduates within the Lansing School District boundaries. Arnold was a part of the managing team that assisted at fundraising dinners and other events.

“It was rewarding to see those students continue to grow,” Arnold said. “Being exposed to all that generosity and giving back to needy families, it touches you and lets you know the importance of giving back.”

Arnold will now carry his spirit of civic engagement to his new position as a district manager at Flik Hospitality Group, where he will oversee the food service programs for 13 private schools in Connecticut. There will be greater pressure to cater to so many individual clients’ needs, Arnold said, but his experience at Roosevelt and Chicago at-large gave him the tools to ensure high work performance across the board.

“If you can survive in a constant, relentless environment like that, you’re able to adjust somewhere that’s a bit slower,” Arnold said. “Put me in any other environment, I feel I can succeed because studying and living in Chicago prepares you to adapt to that level of activity.”

What keeps Arnold going? For one, Brown has been “instrumental” in his professional development after graduation, remaining a valuable resource to offer insight and provide network contacts. But family is certainly most important to him and calls his wife and 7-month-old son “my rock.”

“They’re my driving force, my support system,” Arnold said. “They help me get to that next level.”

Led by his strong commitment to social justice, as well as the academic foundation in hospitality he formed at Roosevelt, Arnold is sure to reach even greater heights.

Brown has no doubts about that.

“He’s going to continue to ascend the corporate ladder at a rapid pace, because he has such a strong work ethic,” Brown said. “And he’s an exemplar of our mission of social justice.”

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