Arkansas State University - Newport

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September 2021

ASUN grad gives back with state leadership role

An Arkansas State University-Newport graduate is putting her experiences in college to work as State Advisor for Arkansas’ Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) chapter.

With multiple degrees and leadership experience, Meghan Cantara wanted a career that would help her grow as a professional while continuing to serve in organizations that supported her during her education.

Cantara first graduated from ASU-Newport in 2017 with a Certificate of Proficiency in Food Service and Management and an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts. In 2019, she graduated from ASUN again. This time, she earned an Associate of Science in Business.

She continued her education at Arkansas State University. In May 2021, she completed degrees in Hospitality Management and Marketing. With a number of educational accomplishments, Cantara began her professional journey with Sodexo at A-State. She is a supervisor and manages the Freshens locations on campus.

While working for Sodexo, Cantara is also taking on a statewide role with Phi Beta Lambda. Phi Beta Lambda is the college equivalent to high schools’ Future Business Leaders of America and is the largest business and technical student organization in the world. As a State Advisor, she will coordinate planning efforts for the fall and spring state conferences. While overseeing the state officer team, Cantara will also organize competitions.

This type of leadership is nothing new to Cantara. At ASUN, she served as the Vice President and President of ASUN’s PBL chapter. She was also the secretary for the academic honor society Phi Theta Kappa. She said student leadership opened up so many opportunities for her.

Meghan Cantara pictured with PBL award
Meghan Cantara with her stat Phi Beta Lambda award.

“Student leadership is incredibly important during college because it gives you the opportunity to get involved in the community you live in and gives you the opportunity to work with other students,” Cantara said. “You get to work with other leadership styles and learn how to adapt to the groups you’re working in so everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.”

In college, her passion for leadership took her to the state-level where she served as the Chief Programming Officer for the state Phi Beta Lambda chapter. She even got involved in the national PBL chapter by serving as a member of the Competitive Events Committee.

Meghan Cantara pictured with other PBL members
Meghan Cantara attended the state Phi Beta Lambda conference with other ASUN students.

 

After graduation, Cantara could have left her leadership commitments behind but said she wanted to continue to help students.

“I wanted to stay involved after graduation, and the previous state advisor felt that I would be a good fit since I had local, state and national experience as a student,” Cantara said.

She’s now leading PBL students from across the state, and she said that would not be possible without ASUN.

“The professors I had at ASUN were all very good at seeing opportunities for students who were willing to take extra steps and get involved,” Cantara said. “Had I not had the professors I had, I would have never competed at Phi Beta Lambda events or applied to be a state officer. I would have never had the opportunity to network with hospitality professionals from going on field trips, job shadowing, internships and odd jobs picked up here and there for one-time events.”

Cantara said her time at ASU-Newport prepared her for her professional career in hospitality but also helped her become a guide for college students looking to grow as leaders.

Even with a full-time job and volunteer commitments, Cantara is focused on continuing her education and being the best she can be. She is working towards certifications with the American Culinary Federation including becoming a certified Chef de Cuisine and Culinary Educator.

Cantara’s journey is far from over and shows what a community college can provide to students that want to invest in themselves.