Finding her place

Last year marked a big change for Alivia Jelinski. After spending most of her adult life working in hotels, a year ago she switched paths and began working as director of facility rentals at the Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center in Lynden. Jelinski, 28, also went back to school, and began working towards a Master’s of Business Administration degree.

“The fair is very much hospitality in its own unique way,” she said. “It’s very much the same atmosphere, where you have a team, and you have to work together.”

Transferring her quick-thinking problem solving skills to the fairgrounds has been easier than she thought, she said, even during the hectic fair last month, when she was responsible for coordinating more than 300 vendors.

“People were really nice, and all my co-workers were really helpful,” she said.

When it’s not fair time she manages events and rentals of the fairground’s 120,000 square feet of event space, plus the equine event center.

At the same time she was switching careers, she also decided to go back to school. She is taking online courses from Washington State University, working toward her MBA.

“I was just kind of feeling like I would create more opportunities for myself for the future, and refine my skill set and really figure out what I wanted to do as a career,” she said.

Jelinski has spent her whole life in the area, on both sides of the border. She was born in Abbotsford, British Columbia, but is a dual-citizen and was raised in Whatcom County.

She went back to BC for college. She didn’t have any specific career goals, but she liked business and she knew she wanted to work in an office.

“I just like the idea,” she said. “I like the office setting and working in networking situations, getting to meet new people.”

For her undergraduate degree, she studied psychology at the University of British Columbia.

“The information I learned there, I feel like I use that everyday,” she said.Also in college, she got her first taste of working in hospitality.

“I realized I really loved it,” she said. She moved back home to Bellingham and loved hospitality so much she worked in hotels for four years.

“I think it’s a combination of being able to interact with people every day,” she said. “Just being able to solve challenges quickly on my feet.”

She got involved with WYPS while working at Home2 Suites.

“[I] found it to be a great way to make business connections, but also a great way to make friends,” she said. “Basically all of my best friends now are people that I met through WYPS.”

Previously she served as the social chair of WYPS, and now serves as membership chair.

“I’ve always found that I get really drawn to leadership roles,” she said. She got involved in leadership in both high school and college.

“It’s just something I think I kind of need for fulfillment in my life,” she said.

She is also the fundraising chair at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center.

“I just see so much value in being part of a nonprofit, especially one whose mission I just believe in so much,” she said. “I just think it’s very important for me to share the things that I feel like I’m good at with organizations that I really care about.”

This is part of the BBJ’s coverage of our annual Top 7 Under 40 Awards. Click here to learn more about the rest of the winners.

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