The head chefs, general managers and meeting executives of tomorrow are being trained right now at institutions of higher learning all across the region. In addition to logging some serious classroom hours on campus, students enrolled in meetings, events and hospitality educational programs are spending time in commercial kitchens, taking field trips, completing industry internships and finding mentors in a field that needs their skills more than ever.
Dakota County Technical College (DCTC)
It’s an axiom in the industry that when everyone else is playing, meetings, events and hospitality professionals are working. During Super Bowl LII, many DCTC students will be participating in intense and practical internships with partner employers throughout the area. “We provide applied targeted knowledge, faculty experts and real-life experience,” says Rosealee Lee, who recently retired after founding the college’s Meetings-Hospitality program 14 years ago. She remains as volunteer ambassador and will be returning as a part-time faculty member later this year. The program currently averages approximately 40 enrollees each semester.
“Many of our internships are short in duration, since the majority of our students cannot take a lengthy period off at their job in order to gain experience. They can be one day, a weekend or a week.”
Super Bowl internships are just one part of DCTC’s “real world” focus that allows students to leverage the program’s strong relationships with area employers. “We have students from many states, ranging in age from 18 to 70,” Lee says. “Our alumni work around the world, from Asia to Europe to North America.”
In an attempt to help students balance responsibilities, the program adopted a completely online format a few years ago. “Our students are adults, and we respect that they have life and work commitments that they must blend with their educational journey,” she says.
“Over the past 40 years in the industry, I have learned of the interconnectedness of hospitality fields that may at first seem disparate. Success skills are the same on any side of the hospitality triangle: working within the team, targeting objectives, measuring success from all perspectives (owner, manager, and guest) and maintaining the spirit of hospitality.”
Normandale Community College
After beginning as a hotel and motel management degree in 1969, this Hospitality Management program is one of the oldest in the state, with an established alumni base working in senior level management positions in Minnesota, the United States and around the world. “A unique feature of our program is the industry connections that we bring into the classroom,” says Brandon J. Supernault, co-chair of the Business department and coordinator and faculty for Hospitality & Tourism. “For example, this semester our Hotel Operations course is being taught by two senior executives from the JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America. In addition to their expertise, these faculty members are teaching students about current industry issues, inviting guest speakers from other departments within their hotel, holding select classes at the hotel and offering mentoring to students.”
The most popular program is a 60-credit Associate degree in Applied Science (AAS) in Hospitality Management. Some students who complete the AAS seek immediate employment, while others transfer to Minnesota State partners Metro State or Southwest Minnesota State University to continue their education in hospitality or business. There are also 20-credit academic certificates in Hotel Operations, Hotel Sales and Marketing, Casino Operations, Food and Beverage Management and Tourism Operations.
“Advances in technology have allowed people to travel further, faster and cheaper than ever before,” Supernault says. “This means more people are visiting friends and family, going on vacation, traveling for business and meetings and combining them all with ‘bleisure’ travel. The result of this continued increase is the need for more well-trained hospitality professionals.”
Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU)
SMSU offers the only four-year program of Culinology and Hospitality management in Minnesota. While “hospitality” is a term everyone understands, “culinology” might be a new one. “It’s a combination of food science and culinary art,” explains Joyce Hwang, assistant professor of Culinology and Hospitality Management.
“Culinology’s goal is to educate wellrounded graduates who can speak the language of the food science lab and the language of the kitchen.” Graduating culinologists can work in areas ranging from fine dining to food manufacturing. About half of the program’s 80 students are enrolled in Culinology, while the remaining group is studying one of the three emphasis areas of Hospitality: Hotel Administration, Event Planning and Management and Culinary Management. “We incorporate a significant amount of hands-on components in each of our courses,” Hwang says. “We have a Culinology lab, three cooking and baking kitchens and a dining room/classroom. In addition, we take the students on field trips to relevant businesses.” Hwang says the job placement outlook is bright for her program’s graduates. “The food and hospitality industry is growing, and many companies have a difficult time filling their positions.”
St. Paul College
The Hospitality Management program’s objective begins with the mission of St. Paul College: “Education for Employment … Education for Life.” Instructor Craig Maus says that Hospitality Management is one of the 11 areas of study in the Business division, which offers 23 different associate degree, diploma and certificate programs. “We educate students on all the career options—not just hotels and restaurants, but also travel, tourism, entertainment, amusement parks, sports, recreation areas and parks,” he says. “We provide a solid foundation in effective management, customer service, communication skills, problem solving and just learning how to learn. We strive to give students skills to make them promotable.”
The two-year AAS degree includes 20 different courses, each led by instructors with a variety of education and business backgrounds. Students can earn certificates in Event and Meeting Management, Social Media Marketing and Restaurant Management. The Hospitality Management AAS and Marketing AAS Degree programs are ACBSP (Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs) accredited.
“What’s fun for me about our program is working with the diversity of students and seeing them grow and succeed,” Maus says. “In any given class, we may have a 16-year-old Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) student sitting next to a 50-year-old ‘seasoned’ student. The significance is that they learn from each other. The 16-year-old learns lessons of the workplace, and the 50-year-old learns the needs of a young employee.
“We see many students coming back to college after a break to finish what they started,” Maus says. “Students are looking for a career change and a pathway to better jobs and higher pay. Our graduates have taken many interesting paths, including starting a bedand-breakfast, returning to the community where they grew up to purchase a local motel, or rising to the level of general manager at a major hotel or restaurant.”
University of Wisconsin-Stout
With a graduate employment rate of 99 percent, this Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program touts its ability to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the hospitality industry. “Our students typically start in manager-in-training programs, with a goal of one day being the general manager,” says Kristal Gerdes, Ph.D., associate dean in the College of Education, Hospitality, Health and Human Sciences.
This fall, the School of Hospitality Leadership will celebrate its 50th anniversary. “We’re Wisconsin’s only polytechnic institution,” Gerdes says. “Polytechnic schools are career-focused undergraduate and graduate universities that combine applied learning with a liberal arts education. Because of our polytechnic designation, we offer hands-on learning. For example, our students experience working in kitchens, choosing menus, researching and testing recipes and ordering and preparing food. For the Event and Meeting Management certificate, they plan and execute events throughout the semester.”
In addition to Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism Management, the school also offers programs in Golf Enterprise Management and Real Estate Property Management. There are oncampus and online course options.
“Jobs in the hospitality industry continue to be in high demand,” Gerdes says. “Meeting, convention and event planner positions are expected to be high-growth occupations, with forecasts predicting 32 percent growth from 2012 to 2022.”
University of Minnesota Conference Center
As the executive director of the University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing Education, Sue Borowick is responsible not only for professional development courses, certificate programs and personal enrichment courses for working adults, but also for a yearlong roster of academic and professional development conferences. At the university’s Conference Center, student workers assist planning and logistics teams with tasks like building social media apps for conferences and entering and reporting on data. They also pitch in for more practical meeting support like setup, teardown and A/V support.
As someone who runs so many meetings—and works with so many students—each year, Borowick has a unique perspective on the future leaders of the industry: “I find that the students I hire often have good analytical and problem-solving skills—the basic work essentials. What’s more difficult for them to get the hang of is understanding the unique needs of our guests, who are adult learners in professional education. We’re often in the ‘edutainment’ business, and that has its own unique set of challenges.”
When hiring, Borowitz says: “I look for the basics of dressing appropriately, being prompt and having computer skills. But I’m really happy when I can find a curious mind—someone interested in learning more about the work we do. I believe hospitality can be taught, but there are some innate personality types to whom it comes more naturally.” She encourages employees to take a broad view of what guest service means: “If you make a promise, follow up on it, or explain what’s happening. You don’t have to be bouncy and bubbly. Sometimes the person who is a good listener is the one who is most helpful.”