Fast Facts about Jennifer Bohac
Jennifer Bohac is the Director of Travel Programs at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
Approximately 64,000 students are enrolled at Texas A&M University. More than 500,000 former students make up the 140-year-old alumni association. Traveling Aggies, the university’s alumni travel program, started sending former students on tours 53 years ago.
Education: Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration at Texas A&M
Employment: Bohac began her career working in academic and career advising. She served in roles including academic adviser in the College of Agriculture and the career development coordinator for student athletes at Texas A&M. Bohac accepted her current position as director of travel programs at Texas A&M 18 years ago.
Accolades: Over the years, Bohac has received a Selfless Service Award from the president of Texas A&M and had an endowment named after her. She and her travelers give yearly donations to the Zariki Primary School in Lake Victoria, Tanzania.
The idea of traveling the world can sound enticing. The logistics of sending strangers halfway around the globe and bringing them back happy and content, however, can be downright scary.
When the president of Texas A&M’s alumni association asked if Jennifer Bohac would be interested in group travel planning, she initially felt hesitant.
“I had a lot of hesitations because my background was in academics,” said Bohac, director of travel programs for the Traveling Aggies.
It took the alumni association president six months to convince Bohac. Luckily for the Traveling Aggies, Bohac eventually relented.
The proof of her success is in the numbers. When Bohac first accepted the job, the program organized 10 trips a year. Today, the Traveling Aggies offers about 90 trips a year.
Finding the Groove
Before leading the travel program, Bohac worked in various academic roles, such as teacher, academic adviser and career development counselor for student athletes. Other than traveling to speak at a few conferences, she hadn’t traveled much.
“It was learning on the job,” said Bohac. “My predecessor had retired, so I didn’t even have someone to train me. The alumni association president eventually convinced me it was more of a program development job. The travel program is ultimately about building relationships.”
Bohac leaned on the alumni association for support. She took the job in April 2001. A few months later, the travel industry changed forever.
“September 11th turned the travel industry upside down,” said Bohac. “It was a big challenge to step into my predecessor’s shoes after she ran it for over 25 years. It took about two years to get the program going again.”
In 2008, the program faltered again after the recession. Instead of giving up, Bohac kept reinventing the travel program to meet the changing needs of the alumni. Thanks to her efforts, the program has grown from 400 travelers to 1,500 in 2019.
The program has spread to include friends and family of Texas A&M alumni. This year, 40 percent of all travelers were first-time customers.
With a daunting 90 trips a year to plan, there is no roadmap for Bohac to follow when choosing where to go. The Traveling Aggies journey all over the world, and trips include exotic international trips to long weekend getaways. The program offers events like the Rose Parade and Texas A&M football away games.
“We start with our trip evaluations, where we ask our travelers where they want to go,” said Bohac. “Our tour operators help us know what’s trending. We also look at our past trip successes.”
The program offers tried and true trips once a year, including African safaris, New England foliage trips and Alaskan cruises. Other trips Bohac might try once to see how they will fare.
Additional complications come from the program’s different travel styles. The Traveling Aggies goes after not just one alumni demographic, but every budget and age range, including trips for recently graduated alumni.
Bohac tries to add special touches to each trip and considers them a major reason the program has had so much success. She tries to connect with alumni when visiting a destination to see if the trip can tie someone back into the university.
“We have a big military presence,” said Bohac. “A lot of Aggies fought in World War II. So when we went to the Normandy American Cemetery, we determined there are 19 Aggies buried or interred there. During our trips to Normandy we visit each Aggie’s grave and put a flag or flower on each of the graves to pay tribute. One of our travelers researched the biographies of each of the Aggies so we could connect with every Aggie laid to rest in Normandy.”
Bohac doesn’t simply send travelers on their way and move on to the next thing. She hosts approximately 15 trips a year.
“I go on as many trips as I possibly can,” said Bohac. “I was gone 240 days last year. It helps me know the product and know what I’m selling. It also helps me have a pulse on the travelers. I see what works and what doesn’t.”
When Bohac can’t travel, the Traveling Aggies typically sends a university or alumni association staff member to join the trip when possible.
To avoid travel burnout, Bohac focuses on seeing the trip through the travelers’ eyes.
“I love travel,” said Bohac. “Every time you get on a plane for another group, it is always different. I’ve gone to Tanzania 26 times, and every time it is different. I love seeing people’s first reactions when in East Africa because it is always fresh and exciting to them.”
Bohac finds the relationships she forms on the tours the most rewarding part of her job. She has developed strong bonds with her travelers and enjoys watching the friendships formed among the Aggies/travelers continue on after the trip ends.
“I always say when it’s not fun anymore, I won’t be able to do it,” said Bohac. “If you can’t have a great time, then you can’t help the group have fun. If I am I’m having fun, it is contagious and reflected to the group and they are going to have a wonderful experience and great time.”
• Pack your patience and flexibility.
• Smile. If you are having fun, your group will have fun.
• Have a thick skin. We are the ones who travelers tend to go to with complaints when things go wrong. Help them make it right, but don’t take things personally.