Visit Austin Foundation Scholarships

The Visit Austin Foundation offers funding to support students pursuing tourism-related degrees at local institutions of higher learning; residents of all ages currently working in the hospitality and tourism industry wanting to advance their career through certification, continuing education or other professional development; and, organizations providing valuable workforce development in Austin’s hospitality and tourism sector.

Congratulations to our previous Heart of Hospitality Award & Scholarship Recipients:

  • 2022 - Joshalyn Walker
  • 2021 - Samantha Anderson & Paxton Knies
  • 2020 - Evan Bruesehoff
  • 2019 - Jessica Hernandez and Ti'Yanna Dozier

    Two women and two men on a stage holding a giant check for scholarship recipient.
    2022 Heart of Hospitality Scholarship Recipient. Credit Taylor Prinsen.


Front-line hospitality employees are the heart and soul of the hospitality and tourism industry. If you receive or witness outstanding customer service from a current member of the Austin hospitality industry and would like to recognize them and nominate them for a Visit Austin Foundation career development scholarship, please complete the following information.

Criteria for nominations (please provide examples of each of the following):

  • Outstanding customer service - exceeding customer expectations
  • Positive attitude
  • Initiative – goes above and beyond regular job responsibilities to enhance the customer experience

Eligibility for nomination:

  • Currently employed in the hospitality industry
  • Interested in advancing their career in the hospitality industry through certification, continuing education or other professional development *(can be verified during review process if unavailable during nomination)
  • Self-nominations will not be accepted

Deadline for nominations is June 23, 2023. Nominations will be reviewed by a committee to determine the 2023 scholarship recipient. The Visit Austin Foundation scholarship will be announced at our Visit Austin Annual Meeting in the fall.

The 2023 round of nominations is closed - please check back for 2024 information.


Paxton Knies, 2021 Heart of Hospitality Award & Scholarship Recipient

“The Austin Heart of Hospitality scholarship is one of my proudest achievements of my career thus far. I attended a career workshop in the spring of 2021 and learned about the internship options with Omni Hotels & Resorts. I am originally from Dallas, and I interviewed for the Rooms Internship at the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown and was accepted with a start date in May of 2021. During this internship, I found a city that was beginning to bounce back from COVID in the most beautiful way. Business travel was returning, my hotel was wrapping up a renovation, and the city of Austin was thriving. I found my calling, and a way to help business and leisure travelers both have a wonderful experience in a fun and vibrant area. I was nominated for the scholarship by my Director of Rooms, Brandon Rhode, after I had accepted to stay on at the hotel permanently. Being nominated was already an honor and being so new to the city and the industry, I never expected to win. I looked into the Visit Austin Foundation and was amazed at what the foundation focuses on. Here was a resource for individuals like myself, devoted to helping grow the careers of people in the service industry in a city I adored and had made my home. I learned all that I could and used to website regularly to find events and community resources, which I was then able to use to create an even better experience for my guests. When I attended the annual Visit Austin dinner and was awarded the scholarship, I was ecstatic and so thankful that an organization such as this would recognize me as being someone worthy of such an incredible opportunity. I will use the scholarship to help finish my degree in Hospitality Management and use the experience to help my mentees in the future. I could not be more grateful to the Visit Austin Foundation and will always cherish this achievement. “ 

Evan Bruesehoff, 2020 Heart of Hospitality Award & Scholarship Recipient

"I used the Heart of Hospitality Scholarship to help me return to Northern Arizona University to pursue my Masters of Organizational Leadership with an emphasis in Project Management. The focus of my studies has been on team development, diversity, and inclusion. The biggest takeaway from my program so far is the importance of creating a work environment that supports deep-level diversity practices, such as diversity of thought. Engaging in deep-level diversity allows teams to problem solve more creatively by bringing various perspectives to the table when solving complex organizational challenges. As I continue to focus on rebuilding our food and beverage operation post-COVID-19 pandemic, I look forward to building a team that embraces diversity and uses it as an advantage to move our organization forward. Thank you, Visit Austin Foundation, for the scholarship; I am very grateful for the opportunities it has provided me."