Alumni Engagement

Passionate Hospitality and Tourism Management grad is in ‘The People Industry’ — and loves it

May 2, 2024

When Maria Jose Eguigure Torres moved from Honduras to Winnipeg in August 2022, she brought with her a budding passion for event planning, a field she had dipped her toes into back home.

Now, as an Event Coordinator for Assiniboine Park Conservancy and a proud alumna of RRC Polytech’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program, Maria is “living the dream” and has turned that passion into a career.

Maria’s journey in event coordination began in 2019 when she started her own event planning business in Honduras alongside her day job. Her move to Winnipeg a few years later was fuelled by a desire to deepen her expertise in a more structured educational environment.

“RRC Polytech’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program was perfect for me because it was hands-on, which is exactly what I needed to build on my existing skills,” said Maria.

But the transition from Honduras to Canada was significant, not only culturally but also professionally. During her co-op at Assiniboine Park Conservancy, Maria had to adapt to the challenges of organizing outdoor events in Winnipeg’s harsh winters—something she had never experienced in her tropical homeland.

“The first time I saw snow was here in Winnipeg. Learning to manage events outdoors here, like understanding why it’s important to put salt down, was completely new to me,” she said.

Despite the steep learning curve, Maria quickly made a mark in her field. She began her co-op placement at Assiniboine Park Conservancy in April 2023, and by the time she graduated from the one-year program in November 2023, she had already secured a job offer with them.

Her role involves coordinating various outdoor events across the park and zoo, from weddings in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden and family movie nights at the Lyric Theatre, to large-scale events like Brew at the Zoo and Zoo Lights.

One of the most gratifying aspects of her job is the ability to create memorable experiences for others.

“At the end of an event, when I see happy faces and hear how grateful people are, it fills my heart,” said Maria. “When people say that, it’s like an affirmation that we are going the right way. It’s also a challenge for myself to be better every day and keep learning because there are always new things that you can apply.”

Her people-centric approach to event planning was influenced by her instructors at RRC Polytech. “One of my instructors always reminded us that we are in the people industry. That stuck with me because I love to talk and connect with people.”

The Hospitality and Tourism Management program’s practical training opportunities, like working at Jane’s Restaurant, helped Maria gain on-the-job experience and introduced her to Winnipeg’s hospitality culture. Her instructors played a pivotal role in developing her public speaking skills, which were initially hampered by her nervousness with English.

“I was afraid at first, but all the support I had from my instructors helped me gain more confidence. I became more fluent in English, and I was not shy. I ended up talking with clients and making them laugh. I was always talking about the Winnipeg Sea Bears because I’m a basketball player. It was nice because it gave me confidence,” Maria said.

RRC Polytech was also instrumental in developing her technical skills, especially in computer and business communication, which are crucial for many of her daily tasks. “The Business Communications course was really handy. It taught me how to handle professional emails and organize effective meetings, which are big parts of my job,” she said.

Some of the roadmaps and other event templates Maria designed while in her co-op are still being used by her team today. “There are a lot of communication skills involved in my job—I always repeat to my colleagues, ‘Communication is key’. And teamwork is so important.”

As for being featured in the Polytechnic Proud campaign, Maria sees it as an opportunity to inspire others, particularly immigrants like herself, and to demonstrate the tangible benefits of hard work and education. “I want my story to show that everything is possible when you work hard toward your dreams,” she said.

Looking to the future, Maria is enthusiastic about the possibilities ahead. Whether it’s moving into another role at Assiniboine Park Conservancy or opening her own event planning business, she is committed to contributing to Winnipeg’s growth and fostering a stronger Honduran community in the city.

“I’m really thankful that I found this program. It gave me the confidence and the hands-on experience that I was looking for; I understand why it’s called a polytechnic,” said Maria. “I’m thankful for Assiniboine Park Conservancy, a place that has welcomed me and supported my growth. I always try to work in silence and let my work speak for itself.”

Hear more about Maria’s outstanding polytechnic experience in this short video interview.

Profile by Riley Chervinski (Creative Communications, 2016).

RRC Polytech campuses are located on the lands of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininew, Dakota, and Dené, and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis.

We recognize and honour Treaty 3 Territory Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the source of Winnipeg’s clean drinking water. In addition, we acknowledge Treaty Territories which provide us with access to electricity we use in both our personal and professional lives.

Learn more ›