By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Katlin Roberts wants to be an event planner when she grows up.
She already has plenty of experience, along with the personality.
Roberts, a Fort Hays State University graduate student from Larned, works full-time at Hampton Inn in Hays while working on her master's in business administration at FHSU with a focus in tourism and hospitality.
"I am busy, and it's awesome," Roberts said, her blue eyes almost jumping with enthusiasm as she talks.
Roberts, an only child, learned early on the meaning of the word "busy."
At 3 years old, she started telling anyone who asked she wanted to live in New York and be a pastry chef.
Her parents managed Pizza Hut in Larned for years, and Roberts ran her own catering business in high school, when she also worked at a local flower company.
When it came time to further her education after high school, Roberts took off for the big city to attend the Culinary Institute of America, one of the premier culinary schools in New York.
Roberts just was finishing her final semester in October 2009 in what she called "an amazing experience," when her father became ill with cancer.
So after graduating with a bachelor's degree in professional studies with an associate degree in baking and pastry arts, Roberts packed her bags and returned to rural Kansas to help out her parents.
"I knew I could work on my master's (at Fort Hays), and I'd be close to help," Roberts said of her decision to put her city life on hold. "It brought us all so much closer."
Roberts kept her culinary skills sharp, cooking at Country Place Senior Living in Larned while commuting to Hays a few days a week.
Now, with her father recovered, Roberts is concentrating full-time on her education once again.
Part of that training is coming from her hands-on experience at the Hampton, where she works the front desk, sets up for events in the meeting room and trains new employees.
"Everyone's a team here; we fill in wherever needed," she said. "If there's something that needs done, we do it."
"They say that the best event planners have knowledge of everything," Roberts added. "So I want to do it all."
A "must" while working at a hotel is good service, Roberts said. A big part of that is making the hotel guests feel comfortable from the time they walk in the front door.
"I love to small talk with everybody," she said. "It's nice to hear their story."
She also goes out of her way to help travelers locate another hotel if there is no room at the Hampton.
"We sell out a lot," she said, "and there are some days I call four hours away for people to find them a hotel."
Roberts said her life is "crazy busy," but she would have it no other way.
After graduation from FHSU, she might "test the waters on the West Coast" or find a job in the Kansas City area.
Or, she just might pursue that dream of a 3-year-old.
"Maybe," she said, those blue eyes sparkling, "I'm not at all limited with this industry."