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From Lectures to Love: Hospitality alumni who met in class

From Lectures to Love: Hospitality alumni who met in class

FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management alums reminisce on how hospitality brought them together

February 13, 2024 at 4:02pm

True love is said to strike when you least expect it, but who knew that the bustling halls of Florida International University could become the target for Cupid’s arrow? At FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, seven remarkable alumni couples have more than just a shared alma mater in common – they also found their soulmates amidst studying for finals, going on international adventures, and even volunteering at the world-renowned Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Capital One (SOBEWFF®). So, gather ‘round and grab your popcorn for a love story extravaganza that’s hotter than a kitchen, as we uncork the tales of these alumni love stories and discover the delightful journey of romance that flourished within the walls of the Chaplin School.

Annette Trull-Novo ‘00 & Giancarlo Novo ‘00

Annette and Giancarlo’s love story began in Professor Stephen Moll's Management in Information Technology course, where he offered her a seat in a full-to-capacity room. As they navigated their hospitality management courses together, their mutual dedication to their careers and education strengthened their bond. Despite the challenges of conflicting work schedules, they found solace in moments spent together on the Biscayne Bay Campus. Since their classes would end later in the evening, Giancarlo would walk Annette to the parking lot (extra slowly) where they would continue conversations and compare notes from class.

Giancarlo and Annette got married after graduating in 2000. Over the years, they adapted to the demands of their hospitality careers, drawing on their shared understanding of the industry's unique challenges. Group projects and collaborative efforts early in their relationship laid the foundation for effective communication, guiding them through the ups and downs of marriage. Giancarlo's best love advice comes out of his own experience of showing courtesy the very first time he met his future wife: "You never know when history may be made from a simple act of kindness.”

Jesille Carmichael Peters ’05, MS ’08, MS ’23 & Michele Nicole Daley-Peters ‘09

Jesille and Michele first met in a computer lab on the Biscayne Bay Campus (BBC) in August 2006. In between classes, they would spend time by the bay, laughing and talking about their future together. After dating throughout college, their relationship became a long-distance love when Jesille was given the opportunity to work in Tobago while Michele landed a job at Sandals International, Montego Bay, Jamaica. While Jesille and Michele would travel back and forth to see each other, Jesille had secretly planned a big proposal and they later got married.

Both deeply passionate about the hospitality industry, they supported each other's ambitions and founded the Peters Family Foundation in Tobago, aimed at aiding differently-abled individuals. Their advice for future graduates? “Laugh at yourself (A LOT), you'll make mistakes, it's inevitable, we've all been there, don't take yourself too seriously. Oh, and study hard.”  

Shane Gray ’09 & Yanan Gray ‘09

Shane and Yanan's love story began when they met in China, both studying hospitality and taking a course there from FIU's own Professor Mohammad Qureshi, who taught a course in facilities management. Bonding over shared study sessions and post-class dinners, their connection grew stronger as they explored campus life together. Flash forward, and the two kept up a long-distance relationship, with Shane in the U.S. and Yanan at home in China. 

Shane and Yanan endeavored into the world of hospitality management because of their shared passion for interacting with people. From working in retail, cruise lines, restaurants and hotels, their journey has included consulting ventures, entrepreneurial pursuits, and ultimately founding United UVC Inc., a company that focuses on using Ultraviolet C (UVC) technology as an effective airborne sanitation technology to reduce the spread of disease and improve air quality. Through it all, their love has endured and flourished, a testament to their commitment and unwavering devotion. As they celebrate nearly 13 years of marriage and the joy of parenting two "awesome sons", Shane and Yanan's message resonates, “Love can take many forms and can be as easy as smiling at another student, giving them a hand, or opening a door.”

Fabiana Ferrer ’12 & Alexander Barrientos ‘11

Fabiana and Alex first crossed paths volunteering at SOBEWFF® events, where sparks flew over the Best of the Best volunteer lunch table. Their initial encounter at Guy Fieri's Beach Party left them both craving more of each other's company. After reconnecting on social media, their casual conversations about classes and professors soon blossomed into hallway laughter and shared moments between classes where Fabiana admits, “I learned Alex's class schedule and would ‘casually’ end up near his class where I would hope we'd bump into each other.”

Working together at hotel front desks, they bonded over guest interactions and the occasional prank call from Alex. As their relationship deepened, Annette and Alex volunteered together at other Chaplin School events and went on kayaking dates on the bay.

While Fabiana pursued a Master's in education at the Chaplin School, Alex's passion for finance eventually led him to a career in financial advising and entrepreneurship. They eventually got married and opened their own finance firm, blending his knack for numbers with her love for working with people.

David Tarada ’16, MS ’18 & Yolanda Suarez ’16, MS ‘19

David and Yolanda’s love story started in their freshman year at FIU's Intro to Hospitality course. While initially in different friend groups and dating other people, they crossed paths again as Teaching Assistants for the culinary class during Junior year where they formed a deep friendship. It was during a study abroad trip called Hospitality at Sea that a lack of cell phone service and internet access pushed them to spend time together and share common interests and a mutual love for hospitality.

Despite Yolanda's reserved nature and David's forte for networking, their connection thrived as they navigated a long-distance relationship after graduation. Through their shared experiences in the Hospitality Management building brewing beer, doing homework, creating menus for events, cooking together, and working as culinary leads at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF®), Yolanda and David can both agree that the Chaplin School hallways feel like home.

The couple got married in 2023. They believe communication and mutual encouragement were key as they pursued individual goals while nurturing their relationship. Their shared passion for food and wine further cemented their bond, leading to adventures in culinary exploration. Grateful for the foundation FIU provided, Yolanda acknowledges that, “FIU didn’t just give us our degrees, it gave me my soulmate and going there was the best choice I ever made.”

Tamara Koubi ’20, MS ’21 & Asht Zaveri ’20, MS ‘21

A student group trip to Universal Studios led to love for two Chaplin School students. While taking part in a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the nation’s most well-known amusement parks, Tamara and Asht found themselves on a thrilling adventure, from being just friends to now planning a wedding together. After the trip, their friendship deepened through various outings organized by mutual friends. They became a couple after four months of dating.

Tamara and Asht now make it a tradition to attend FIU events together, such as the Hospitality Rising Star Awards and alumni reunions, often commemorated with photo booth snapshots to capture their relationship milestones. The Universal POD remained a significant memory, not only for bringing them together, but also for the friendships formed within the group. After graduating with their master's degrees, they celebrated by having a photo shoot on the Modesto Maidique Campus with their puppy, immortalizing their time at FIU.

In 2020, they embarked on a new adventure when Asht participated in a Marriott Mini Voyager program in Park City, Utah, with Tamara accompanying him. Working together at the St. Regis for six months, they experienced snow for the first time, creating cherished memories.

Asht's initial reluctance to attend events transformed into a journey of personal growth, motivated by Tamara's encouragement to break out of his comfort zone and embrace new experiences. Their love for FIU continues as they remain active in alumni events, with Asht even joining the Hospitality Alumni Board. Asht's hospitality degree led him to his current role at Playa Hotels & Resorts, setting the stage for a perfect proposal and their upcoming wedding in January 2025. Their advice echoes their own experiences, “Seek novel experiences, foster connections, and support each other's dreams for a lifetime of shared successes.”

Matthias Chik '20, MS '21 & Rebecca Bohigas '21, MS '23

Matthias and Rebecca’s romance began when they shook things up at the first-ever Bacardi Center of Excellence Bartenders Guild meeting, where students learned the art and craft of creating cocktails with fine spirits. They both shared a passion for mixology and food and beverage which led them both to being part of the Bartenders Guild Executive Board where they would regularly plan and attend meetings together. Their time spent inside the FIU hospitality hallways extended outside of the campus walls where they explored Miami’s culinary scene, often opting for sushi and Italian shaved ice near the campus.

Rebecca and Matthias both became employees of the Chaplin School’s Food and Beverage department and spent all their time together, on and off campus, even carpooling daily. Their FIU journey was filled with teaching cocktail history to students, participating in campus events, traveling to alumni events and even hosting their own cooking segment on the 2021 Homecoming Roar Report where Matthias fried up his take on fish and chips. Their advice to others echoes their own story, “Be open to the people who come into your life by chance.”

Engaged in April 2023, their FIU love story came full circle when they celebrated their engagement at the Chaplin School’s Wine Spectator Restaurant Management Lab and are eagerly anticipating their wedding in September 2024.

Love Lives On

As their alumni love stories continue to unfold, these seven alumni couples reflect on the special moments that brought them together within the walls of FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. Their advice to future graduates and fellow alumni mirrors the lessons they have learned along the way:

  • be open to unexpected connections
  • nurture relationships
  • embrace every opportunity for growth and adventure










Annette Trull Novo & Giancarlo Novo at their FIU Commencement, The Novo family






Jesille Carmichael Peters & Michele Nicole Daley-Peters





Shane Gray & Yanan Gray










Fabiana Ferrer & Alexander Barrientos 










 Yolanda Suarez & David Tarada 










Asht Zaveri & Tamara Koubi










Rebecca Bohigas & Matthias Chik