Katie Wagner, Operations Coordinator of Direct Travel, was 15 when she discovered her passion for travel. While participating in a trip through People to People International, she spent three weeks in Europe exploring Spain, France and Italy while completing homestay visits and teaching English to French-speaking families. Prior to departure, she didn't know a single person—and she had the time of her life.
"At a young 15 years old, I wasn't afraid to travel without anything familiar to me," Wagner said. "It was a thrill and an experience I'll never forget."
After graduating from the University of Rhode Island, Wagner joined the group travel industry working for Gordon Research Conferences, where she coordinated activities for domestic and international scientific conferences. The position helped her realize how group travel could enhance education at all ages.
So, she took her passion to students.
Today, Wagner is the Operations Coordinator for the Student Educational Travel department at Colpitts World Travel, where she enjoys working with groups of all ages and sizes to create an itinerary that matches their specific needs.
"What I find so fascinating about this profession is how every group is different," Wagner said. "Becoming a group travel coordinator has been one of the most rewarding and exhilarating ways to see the world, learn about different cultures and history, while also sharing my love of travel with students and educators."
Wagner is proud of the Student Educational Travel at Colpitts. Consisting of only two people—Wagner and the Director of Sales—her department is small, yet successful.
"Being a department of two truly gives our clients that one-on-one experience," Wagner said. "I think that's one of our best strengths that sets us apart and allows us to excel as much as we have."
Wagner loves her career in the group travel industry because she thrives on challenge.
"I love to learn new things, and I want to continue to see the world. I'm lucky to have a position where things aren't routine and where many of my skills are utilized."
And she looks forward to allowing many more groups to experience the value of student travel.
"Not only can travel bring different cultures together," she said. "I also believe it can inspire people in the best ways."
Katie Wagner is one of the 2017 Top 10 Next Gens nominated by Groups Today readers for making a difference in the industry. Click here to read more about the Top 10 Next Gens in the January/February issue of the magazine.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.