Hospitality management professor impacts K-State with her trendsetting abilities

Dr. Kristin Malek teaches meeting and event planning classes within the College of Human Ecology. (Hallie Lucas | The Collegian)

As the only Kansas State representative on the list of Top 20 Meetings Trendsetters in 2016, Kristin Malek, assistant professor in hospitality management, represents the university proudly, according to Kelli Farris, hospitality management adviser.

“I think that the one thing that stands out most to me about Kristin is being named one of the Top 20 trendsetters,” Farris said. “I think that is huge and I think she is making major changes for the industry that the students under her will recognize.”

Malek said not only does being named one of the Top 20 trendsetters have a great impact on her, it also has a great impact on the university itself.

“I think it has a great impact, and I am proud to represent higher education, and more specifically Kansas State University, in our industry,” Malek said.

Although Malek’s journey to K-State was not the best experience, she said she knew her dream of making an impact on someone’s life would soon come true.

“My flights were all messed up, there were thunderstorms, it was a small plane so it was shaking so hard; I thought to myself I am never moving to Kansas,” Malek said. “When I arrived at the university and walked into the hospitality department the feeling of family really hit me.”

For K-State, hiring Malek was a no-brainer, Kevin Roberts, interim department head of the hospitality management department said. From her vast past experience working as a shift supervisor, assistant store manager, a designer, an events coordinator and an executive director of events, it was a very easy decision to hire Malek.

“It wasn’t one specific job experience that made me want to hire her, but the totality and breath of her experience is hard to find,” Roberts said.

Malek said Roberts was a big reason why she came to K-State, because of his passion for students.

“I think I tried to communicate to her that we try to do what is best for the students,” Roberts said. “I like the idea of students being able to walk into any faculty member’s office and talk to them about anything, and they would be willing to talk and be personal with you.”

Malek said her main strength is a developer, and working with undergraduate students, graduate students and even faculty members helps her grow.

“She is really good at getting students connected to the industry in ways they don’t know is beneficial,” Farris said. “Whether that be taking them to the network industry, taking them to meetings in different cities or doing volunteer work around the town, getting them the experience that will set them apart once they graduate and want to move into the industry full time.”

Malek said her main focus right now is event planning, but she wants to be a full professor and move into administration.

“I love making a difference in someone’s life and by moving up I feel like I would have more of an opportunity to make a higher impact for students,” Malek said. “I will always be an events person.”

Right before Malek came to K-State, she worked as an executive director of events for Sass and Class Events in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Malek said she planned annual conferences while in that position, and that experience is what tied her love for education and events together.

“I loved planning for their annual conferences because it helped me impact people, making sure they know they were relevant and up-to-date,” Malek said.

Farris said Malek’s personality shows in her work.

“She is a good networker and likes that opportunity to talk to other people and make connections with other people,” Farris said. “She has high expectations and wants her students to reach those expectations.”

In the short time Malek has been at K-State, she has made tremendous achievements already.

Malek said she has had two co-authored papers win best paper honors on the same day, one in Olathe, Kansas, and the other at a conference in Las Vegas.

“After I had found out we won the one in Olathe, my research student had called me after presenting in Las Vegas and told me that we had won,” Malek said. “That was really cool.”

Malek has many accomplishments and experiences but she said she wouldn’t be anywhere today without her family.

“The reason why I have been so successful is because I have such a strong and supportive husband,” Malek said. “I have always been so independent and never thought that someone could impact me in such a way, but it’s so true. He is extremely supportive and I couldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”