Amber GrayAmber Gray grew up in Princeton, Ky., in Caldwell County, a town of about 6,000 people. Those small-town beginnings haven’t stopped the academic coordinator in the Department of Retailing and Tourism Management from branching out though. Gray has traveled extensively and in a three-year stretch managed to visit 29 countries.

Gray began her career at the University of Kentucky (UK) in August 2018 after moving from her alma mater, Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). She earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2008 and finished her master’s in business administration in 2014.

Gray began employment at EKU as a student worker in 2006. Her position was made permanent when she graduated, and she moved into various positions through the years. She worked in the nursing department, the American Sign Language department, and admissions and recruiting, among others. Her work with international students brought her to numerous foreign countries in order to recruit potential students.

And her new job here has kept her moving, too. She travels for conferences and recruitment events that keep her focus on students. “I love working with the students directly,” she said. “Before, I worked in admissions, and the students were nervous about getting in, but now the students are excited and working toward the future.”

Her job as academic coordinator means she helps with recruitment, works with curriculum, and advises students in both the merchandising, apparel and textiles program and the hospitality management and tourism program. Gray works one-on-one with students a lot, which is her favorite part of the job. “They have goals, and it’s exciting to help them achieve those goals,” she said.

She likes it so much, in fact, she and her boyfriend of three-and-a-half years are building a house in the Hamburg area. There will be plenty of room for her two dogs, Nola and Nawlins. “That (New Orleans) used to be my favorite spot (to travel),” she said. “Now it’s Ecuador. Every city in Ecuador I’ve been to, I just love it.”

Even a language barrier doesn’t stop her from traveling. “I only speak English,” Gray said. “But everyone is so friendly, it doesn’t matter.” Friendly people and Google Translate, make traveling easy for Gray. And her office reflects her favorite hobby. Exotic paraphernalia from around the world, many with obvious Asian influences, covers her shelves.

Which helps explain her favorite courses to recommend to students. MAT 480 and HMT 486, both study tours, have similar goals of learning through travel. Students and Gray, who will be joining the MAT trip, get a behind-the-scenes look at their subjects when they travel to places like New York, Italy, or France. Destinations include places like the Gucci Museum in Italy or Kleinfelds’ bridal store in New York.

Keeping abreast of two, seemingly different programs is not hard. Merchandising, apparel and textiles have a lot in common with hospitality management and tourism. “They’re more similar than you think,” Gray said. “There is a business and scientific approach to both. One is buying and selling goods, and the other is buying and selling a service.”

Her love of higher education brought her to Lexington and the university, but the opportunities of the bigger city keep her here. “I can’t picture myself there anymore,” Gray said of her hometown. “Ryan (her boyfriend) and I are foodies, so Lexington is great because it has so many different unique options.”

The options are what keep her happy. Gray has a really hard time finding anything negative about her job. “The parking? Maybe,” she said. “I just love everything about this job.”

Author: Alyssa Simms
Terms: RTM