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Unparalleled experience: York College expands opportunities for student involvement with the Yorktowne Hotel, Tapestry Collection by Hilton


When students graduate from York College of Pennsylvania, Dr. Dominic DelliCarpini doesn’t want them to have a list of what they’ve learned — he wants them to have a list of what they’ve done.

As Dean of York College’s Center for Community Engagement, he’s working with Dr. John Hughes, Dean of the School of the School of Arts, Communication and Global Studies and Director of the Hospitality Management Program, to ensure students get an experience that’s unheard of during a college education.

After the fall semester, 18 students ranging from Hospitality Management to Engineering majors will add “Revitalizing the Yorktowne Hotel” to their résumés.

A first-class work experience

In the spring of 2018, three York College Hospitality majors were the first to take part in a new partnership between the school and the York County Industrial Development Authority. They attended design meetings, met with professionals in the field, and contributed research and insight to solve problems assigned by those professionals renovating the historic hotel.

This fall, the class is expanding to include students from across York College.

In the real world, people with different disciplines and backgrounds work together all the time.

Engineers can’t just talk to other engineers, says Dr. DelliCarpini. They must be able to communicate with, say, a hotel manager, too.

“The goal is for our students is to work across disciplines, not to be siloed,” he says.

It’s why the range of students in a project-based course this fall semester will mirror the range of professionals with whom the students will be working.

That means Hospitality Management, Communications, and Engineering students will all work together in teams to solve problems.

“It’s going to replicate our work experience in the real world,” says Dr. Hughes, who will be co-teaching the class with Dr. DelliCarpini.

Hands-on experience

Dr. Hughes doesn’t yet know exactly what his students will be doing in the fall. That’s because their projects aren’t coming from a textbook; they’re coming straight from the developers, engineers, architects, and management leaders spearheading the hotel renovations.

Students will meet throughout the semester with those industry professionals and with Dr. Hughes and Dr. DelliCarpini.

Working on projects and solving the problems will be up to the students themselves with the supervision of Dr. Hughes and Dr. DelliCarpini.

“Learning is not listening, and teaching is not talking,” Dr. DelliCarpini says.

This kind of hands-on, “project-based learning” experience is what sticks with students, he says.

Their projects could range from forming a communications strategy to attract employees, to designing food and beverage concepts, to working with architectural and design companies.

An experience like this is transformative, Dr. Hughes says.

It’s one thing to learn concepts from textbooks and lectures, but another to apply what’s learned in the classroom to practice.

“For a student to actually see it and have their hands on it and learn from experts how to do it every day,” Dr. Hughes says, “that’s a powerful learning outcome.”

A resource for all

Although the fall class is new, this is a program that’s been years in the making. One important aspect of that planning has been to make sure the hotel is a resource for all members of the community, not just some.

Maybe, York College students could help solve that problem.

That could mean creating training programs or other ways to help someone who is hired for an entry level wage at the hotel to have upward mobility within the hotel and a career with the management company.

“How do you build in a way that’s equitable?” Dr. DelliCarpini says. “That’s part of the learning here.”

Connecting with the community

Having their hands on renovating a historical anchor in the city will have a lasting impact on students.

“It changes their relationship with the city,” Dr. DelliCarpini says.

They’re able to take pride and ownership in what they’ve accomplished and can see tangible results of their work.

Dr. DelliCarpini envisions a day in the future when one of these students stays at the Yorktowne with his or her children, or takes the professional relationships made during this project and carries them into a career.

“You’re going to be able to say, ‘I helped to build this.’ That’s an experience you just can’t get in a classroom.”