Kevin Hughes ’07: A Combined Passion for People and Travel Inspires Uncommon Career Path for Arcadia Alumnus

By Susan Gettlin | January 22, 2016

Why be a tourist when you can be traveler?

Picture it— a family holding flowers and signs in an airport while waiting to greet a troop returning home from war; or a child bursting with excitement as she boards a flight for her first trip to Disney World. Most people have witnessed such heart-tugging scenes in movies and holiday commercials, but Kevin Hughes ’07 says playing a role in special moments like these is one of the most gratifying aspects of his job. 

As manager of crew resources for American Airlines, Hughes spends his days empowering front-line employees to take ownership of their crews’ experience— always keeping in mind how important the little touches are to them.

“There really is something very magical about what we do. It’s not just moving metal. In today’s technology-driven society, you can tag your own bags, print your own boarding pass, but at the end of the day, someone has to fly the plane; someone has to be there to say ‘welcome aboard.’”

But Hughes, who graduated from Arcadia with a specialized degree in international affairs and business development, says his role at the airline’s Integrated Operations Center can be quite challenging. Crisis management is a big part of the job. He’s done everything from spending a month in Italy working with unions and airport authorities on safety programs, or preparing staff and make plans to accommodate air traffic reroutes and cancellations in advance of a pending volcanic event in Iceland.

The resident of Dallas, Texas grew up Abington, Penn. The youngest of three children, he was the known as the little brother who happened to be in the band. It wasn’t until he came to Arcadia that he began to branch out on his own. 

“I came to campus and I was just ‘Quiet Kevin’…for about a month.”

As a student, Hughes was involved with the Student Alumni Association (SAA) and helped to institute an annual Jell-O tug-of-war event that was sponsored by the Alumni Association and Annual Fund Department. As an alumnus, he served as class president for the Class of 2007 and is a mentor in the Alumni Career Mentor Program. 

“If it weren’t for my involvement at Arcadia, I would never be the person I am today. Becoming a [resident assistant], film chair, comedy chair, and commencement speaker helped me come into my own.”

During his tenure at Arcadia, Hughes also developed his passion for travel, taking trips with the University to Geneva, Beijing, and Scotland.

After graduating, he went on to work at Disney World, where he managed food and beverage services at EPCOT, along with overseeing the international visa program for Disney’s international college internship program.

“It’s a surreal moment when you’re walking through the EPCOT at night after a stressful day at work— knowing that just two hours ago, the park was filled with 80,000 people.”

Hughes was recruited from Disney by Sodexo, a multinational food services and facilities management corporation, and was later recruited by United Airlines to manage on-board catering and food safety.

I’ve seen things I’ve never dreamed of.

Even when he’s not traveling for work, Hughes finds himself sneaking in a quick trip. The self-proclaimed foodie has been known to catch a flight from Texas to Florida just to have dinner with his best friend, hop on a plane to St. Thomas for Key Lime pie, or go to California for sourdough bread.

“Travel is a big part of who I am. I’m also a history buff.” says Hughes, who has climbed The Great Wall of China and explored the tombs of ancient Greeks in Athens.

Hughes’ advice to current and prospective students at Arcadia

“Fail. College is life with a safety net. Failure is never something to be embarrassed about. Walt Disney said, ‘Sometimes the best thing for you is a big kick in the teeth.’ While you’re at Arcadia you have your friends, staff, and a community that really cares about you. So don’t be scared to take chances.” 

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