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Alumni Engagement

Elise Wood (Hospitality and Tourism Management)

June 6, 2011

Elise WoodThe Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg already serves a high-profile function: producing all of Canada’s circulation coins.

Now, Red River College grad Elise Wood has the opportunity to raise the popular tourist destination’s profile even further, thanks to the skills she picked up while enroled in the College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program.

“The Royal Canadian Mint is one of the largest and most versatile mints in the world – here in Winnipeg we’ve made circulation coins for more than 70 countries around the world,” says Wood, the Mint’s Supervisor of Boutique and Tour Operations .

“That’s something we should be proud of as Canadians. Many visitors don’t realize what we do here until they visit and take a tour.”

A native of St. Francois Xavier (just west of the city), Wood describes herself as a “regular country kid” who enjoyed playing sports and other outdoor games as a child. After graduating high school, she attended a few semesters of university before heading to Ontario to work at a resort on Lake of the Woods.

“It turned out I had a knack for it,” says Wood of the job. “At the time I was serving and bartending, but I really had fun and I was good at it. I was confident in my abilities, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to make a career out of it.”

The experience proved fortuitous, as a few of Wood’s co-workers turned out to be completing work placements for their studies at Niagara-on-the-Lake College.

“They said, ‘Oh we’re tourism majors,’”she recalls. “I didn’t really understand what that was — maybe a professional serving program? — so when I got back to university, I looked it up.”

Wood’s discovery prompted a re-evaluation of her post-secondary plans, and she eventually switched from university to Red River College, where she found the smaller class size and focus on practical, real-world experience to be better suited to her own methodology.

“My learning style is completely different,” she explains. “I can’t just sit down and read a whole textbook to grasp the concept. I ‘m more of a visual learner –more hands on – so the College was perfect for me.”

Wood chose Tourism Management as her major, and spent her first co-op placement at the Mint. Her second placement — with the West Interlake Trading Company, a tourism development/community service organization in Warren, Man. — led to her first period of post-RRC employment, which she spent organizing tourist-friendly events such as car shows and farmers’ markets, and also establishing a number of policies and procedures.

While working in Warren, Wood was approached about a permanent position at the Mint. Thrilled at the prospect of working there again, Wood happily made the switch, and within months had taken on the role of Supervisor, Boutique and Tour Operations. Her move to the new role happened to coincide with the start of the Olympic Winter Games program in B.C., which meant she had the opportunity to help set up and supervise the Boutique at the Mint’s official pavilion, where fans could get a closer look at the Olympic Medals.

At the Mint’s boutique in Winnipeg, she’s responsible for advertising, client acquisition, event planning and staffing,  and for ensuring the site itself remains one of the province’s top tourist attractions.

“You always have to evolve,” she says. “We have a number of ideas we’re working on to improve the tour experience for visitors to the Mint.”

Wood speaks highly of her time at the College, in particular the Hospitality program’s focus on business and leadership skills. Somewhat surprisingly (given her years of experience as a server), she says she found a class devoted to customer service to be particularly beneficial.

“I had always taken pride in providing good customer service, so I took this class and thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re going to teach me about customer service?’” she recalls.

“But I’m more aware of how I react in different situations, rather than just acting on instinct. Excellent customer service is the core of our success at the Boutique and I’m proud to be sharing what I’ve learned with my staff as they build their careers as well.”

Click here for more information about the Royal Canadian Mint.

Click here for more information about Red River College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program.