York College Hospitality Management program earns praise from industry leaders
Stay at a historic hotel, attend a gala affair at a country club, or dine at a fine restaurant. Fly off to a conference at a resort, splash at a water park, or try your luck at a casino. In each case, behind-the-scenes expertise assures a memorable experience.
It’s all thanks to the 2.5 million Management professionals in the hospitality industry across the United States. And, as companies spread their brands overseas, those experts can find themselves working around the globe.
Out of about 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, York College of Pennsylvania is one of only about 400 that offer a degree in Hospitality Management, and graduates are in demand.
Dr. John Hughes, chairman of the Department of Hospitality Management, Sport Management and Recreation, says Hospitality Management focuses sharply on the service industry. It requires 800 hours of supervised work during summers, when students discover where their greatest interest lies.
“In the hospitality field, the product is made and consumed right before your eyes,” Dr. Hughes says. “Managers must be adroit at keeping everything in balance: feelings, experience, and satisfying and anticipating needs.”
That’s why courses include service sector leadership, accounting, finance, facilities management, commercial food production, communications, technology, critical thinking, economics, and ‒ because of the global nature of the industry ‒ international business and world issues.
And hospitality managers don’t always work for someone else.
“One of nice things about the hospitality business is that you have the opportunity to start your own business,” Dr. Hughes says. Think restaurateur, wedding planner or corporate events coordinator.
Tapping into expertise
In their first class, Introduction to Hospitality Management, students meet key players in the industry, some of whom are advisers to Hughes and his department.
Among them are Ashleigh Mason, vice president of development strategies for GF Management, a hospitality ownership and management company based in Philadelphia that specializes in hotels, resorts, and golf courses.
GF will operate the landmark Yorktowne Hotel in downtown York when it reopens in 2018 after renovations. GF has plans for York College students to intern there.
The company’s founder, Ken Kochenour, is a 1974 York College graduate and sits on the school’s board of trustees.
Mason speaks to students about her role in franchises, but emphasizes the broad nature of the hospitality industry. She calls it “an incredible place to live, learn and work. There are so many opportunities.”
She is especially encouraged to see the large number of female students in the major.
York College students, she says, “seem very engaged. They want to learn. York College is doing students a good service in this program.”
‘A special environment’
Bryan Danehy, chief operating officer and general manager at the Country Club of York, speaks to introductory classes regularly and hosts a senior-level course at the club.
The 31-year-old COO strives to show students that “this is a special environment, not a major you choose because you want to bartend the rest of your life.”
“I try to convey how crucial it is to have actual work experience as you learn your scholastic component as well,” he says.
The Ohio State University Hospitality Management graduate says with each passing year he is more impressed with the caliber of students in the York College program, citing their professional appearance, thoughtful questions, and interest in the subject matter.
York College students have interned in all aspects of management at the country club. The club has hired graduates in supervisory and beginning management positions in food and beverage service, pool and patio operations, on the golf course, and in its culinary and banquet programs.
Classroom, life lessons
Sean Arnold, a chef and educator who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, is the owner of The Left Bank Restaurant and Bar, which offers a cosmopolitan dining experience in downtown York.
“I try to bring real-life situations, hopefully to tie in what they’re learning with actual business situations,” Arnold says of his talks to York College students.
He says he believes the students are getting an accurate picture of the challenges they’ll face.
Arnold says he might sign on to teach food and beverage classes in the kitchen of the renovated former Lafayette Club, a stately downtown York institution that was gifted to the college.
Location, location, location
By the time students receive their York College diploma, they have had hundreds of hours of work experience and will have interacted with many professionals in the field.
Without leaving central Pennsylvania, they find themselves in the state’s No. 1 tourism destination. And without venturing far, they have access to major corporations in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, and Washington, D.C.
“It’s hard to leave here not employed,” Dr. Hughes says.