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‘Endless’ opportunities for Hospitality students

December 08, 2016
Jenny Rizzolo

Jenny Rizzolo wanted a career where she could make people happy.

A cubicle or corner office never had the same appeal as working alongside people who were excited about their jobs, she said.

When she started at York College of Pennsylvania as an Education major, she did it so she could help others. But then she heard about an intriguing new major: Hospitality Management.

She decided to dip a toe in and see what it was all about. Not long into Dr. John Hughes’ Introduction to Hospitality course, she thought, “l love this! These are my people.”

She immediately changed her major.

A passion for people

Three months after she graduated in 2015, Rizzolo became the sales and conference services coordinator at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Baltimore hotel in Maryland. ­­

The job gives her the chance to work with people from all over the country. After the hotel’s sales team books a meeting event, Rizzolo takes over. She manages all the details, from the conference room set-up to the menus to the final billing.

She enjoys making sure all the individual choices that compose an event serve each client’s specific needs — considering every aspect, from the number of people in attendance to the purpose of the meeting.

“I am passionate about taking care of people,” she said.

Rizzolo knows that the hands-on experience that York College provides prepared her for her career.

As a student intern, Rizzolo worked in a baseball stadium’s food and beverage services, in an amusement park’s guest services, and at the front desk of a Marriott resort in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Those varied experiences gave her invaluable practice at applying what she had learned on campus.

‘Everyone always mentions Disney’

In an effort to give back, Rizzolo decided to offer other Hospitality students a behind-the-scenes look at the Royal Sonesta. She gave a small group a tour of the hotel this fall.

“Students asked about what I do as far as event management, as that is an aspect of the program they don’t get to dive into as much as hotel and food/beverage management. I’m so happy to be able to add something to their education,” Rizzolo said.

Going into the hospitality industry means being surrounded by people with a zest for life. And it is perfect for people like Rizzolo who love to travel.

“You can do this anywhere in the world. And there is so much more to hospitality than hotels and restaurants … and Disney — everyone always mentions Disney,” she said. “The options are endless.”

Experience for the real world

York College’s course diversity set Rizzolo up for success. Even the accounting class, which she admits she didn’t have the best attitude about, provided her with skills she now uses every day.

Her accounting instructor was Michelle La Motte, who has been with the college’s Hospitality program since 2013. La Motte also teaches finance and law.

“I teach all the popular classes,” La Motte said, laughing.

But she knows how important those classes are for students and does all she can to bring real-world application into the classroom through guest speakers and field trips.

Visiting different sites, like the Hershey Hotel, allows students to witness both the public-facing aspects of hospitality, as well as the “back of the house,” where they can see invisible but critical aspects, such as heating systems.

“It helps students apply what they are learning,” La Motte said. “To see it in action is a whole different story: Then they can picture themselves in it.”

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