SEU associate professor of tourism and hospitality management Dr. Amy Bernard has served others in tourism and hospitality through restaurant management, entertainment, and teaching. Amy enables students to serve the tourism and hospitality industry with a Christ-centered approach and a people-first attitude. “For students going into the industry, I encourage you to go and share the Good News. Even if it’s one person, you can turn a life around by simply being hospitable and serving others as Christ would.” Amy’s education experience does not stop with teaching tourism and hospitality; she is also a successful student who earned her Bachelor of Business Administration, and her Master of Business Administration at Stetson University. She recently completed her PhD in Organizational Leadership at SEU. She shares her experience serving customers and students throughout her career journey and time spent at SEU.
A Servant to All
“I’ve been in tourism and hospitality my whole life, working in various positions in the restaurant business,” explained Amy. “I was adamant about serving others to the best of my ability.” She discovered her passion for storytelling while being a server, which led to her decision to major in journalism at SEU. Combining storytelling with her passion for hospitality aided Amy in many career opportunities, all while allowing her to keep her focus on Christ. Amy’s journalism career was well on its way until she faced a health scare. It was shocking when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. This caused her to question her passion for hospitality and serving others; she felt that she couldn’t serve others due to her diagnosis.
However, Amy decided not to let her diagnosis define her, but rather to propel her further into her career. “I went through surgery, chemo, underwent radiation treatments, and lost all my hair,” Amy explained. ”All of that drastically changed my outlook on life for the better.” After those grueling months of treatment to battle the cancer, Amy got the news that she was cancer-free! After healing and some heavy consideration, Amy decided to continue her career and change her field of study to restaurant management while at Stetson University.
2“My parents always wanted me to do anything but stay in hospitality,” Amy recalled. “But, I chose to change my major to restaurant management, which was one of the best decisions I have made. I have a real passion for it and have grown in my skills.” After receiving her Bachelor of Business Administration at Stetson and completing culinary school in the Orlando area, she received the opportunity to do an internship with Disney. She ended up working at Disney as a front-of-house restaurant manager and culinary director for 14 years. Additionally, she worked for a golf club, serving in the on-site restaurant. Her years of culinary and hospitality experience, and bachelor’s and master’s level degrees in business management, paved the way for her teaching career at SEU.
A Higher Calling in Higher Education
Throughout her time in the industry, Amy also desired to teach what she knows about tourism and hospitality and its place in the business world. When Amy toured SEU, she immediately felt a sense of community with the staff, faculty, and students. Dr. Bernard was offered a position as a tourism and hospitality management professor, and on top of that decided to pursue a PhD in Organizational Leadership which she completed in 2023.
“I’m so glad I went into higher education,” she said. “I already knew that’s where my heart was.”
Hospitality is The Gift That Keeps On Giving
In the tourism industry, effective hospitality can make or break an experience for a visitor. Allowing students to collaborate in real-life scenarios helps simulate the pressure of real-world situations. Amy hopes to take students on a study abroad trip to experience landmarks and notable restaurants and get an idea of what effective and successful hospitality looks like in the present day.
Amy has shown that servanthood and a hospitable heart can make a positive impact.“Working in teams is an essential part of my classes,” says Amy, “because in this field, teamwork requires everyone.” Amy also incorporates faith into the classroom — this comes as second nature because this field requires putting others first. “I do have faith that my students are strong enough to follow the path God is leading them and to aid others on their path through a hospitable heart.” Through her experience in restaurant management, higher education, and teaching at SEU, Amy believes spreading the word of God through hospitality is both possible and needed today.
By David Jarrett, Student Writer
Edited by Mia Golding & Emma Stern, Student Writers