KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 3, 2021
With the hospitality industry seeing signs of a recovery and the nation facing a labor shortage, Kennesaw State University’s hospitality management program sees a golden opportunity for student interns.
Hotel occupancy in Georgia reached a 12-month high in the first quarter of this year, increasing 42 percent since April 2020, according to investment management firm Colliers’s Q1 2021 Georgia Hotel Industry Report. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the hospitality industry is still down 2.2 million jobs nationally compared to February 2020.
Through internships with hotels and other properties, the Michael J. Coles College of Business’ hospitality management program is helping members of the local hospitality community meet their increasing demand while providing students with real-world professional experience.
Among the businesses partnering with the University is Tru/Home2Suites by Hilton in Kennesaw, which employs two student interns, senior Elise Majetich and junior Katrina Brown. The internship is a full-fledged leadership program with hotel management teaching the students all aspects of the business.
“They have been open to allowing me to explore what makes up the industry and I’m so thankful for that,” Majetich said. “I’ve learned that the hospitality industry is not easy and it takes patience. But, with a passion to serve, there are endless opportunities.”
Majetich and Brown predominantly work the front desk and rotate through other roles like housekeeping and breakfast operation. They also partner with management to perform back-office duties such as food and beverage ordering, revenue management, and sales and marketing.
“The goal for us is to be a manufacturer of leaders,” said Tru/Home2Suites general manager Betty Ayele. “When students come here, they learn to move on to leadership and management positions. While they are with us, they are going to learn everything about the business and find out what their strengths are.”
For the students, the internships are the perfect opportunity to get course credit while determining what trajectory their careers will take after graduation.
“At times this doesn’t feel like just an internship, but a job I can grow in,” said Brown, adding that the experienced inspired her to pursue a career in corporate event planning. “This is the first job I’ve genuinely loved, and I’ve gained so much respect for everyone in the industry.”
The partnership between Hilton and Kennesaw State is the first of many like it that hospitality program director Leonard Jackson will establish. He is currently working to create internship opportunities with Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel & Convention Centerand Marietta Country Club, which is also helping develop a new academic course in private club management. These partnerships are important because every hospitality management student must complete 400 hours of professional service to graduate.
“With these partnerships, the goal is to place all my students in high-quality work situations,” Jackson said. “I’m very selective of where we encourage our students to go. We want them to get wholesome experiences with brand names that enhance the students’ portfolios.”
Though the hospitality management program launched less than a year ago, students are already landing jobs at major companies. Junior Alana Agcaoili – who will graduate in 2022 – was recently hired as a procurement specialist for IHG Hotels and Resorts, where she helps research potential suppliers, maintains vendor relationships, and negotiates new contracts. She credits much of her success to the skills gained in the hospitality management program.
“So much of what I am learning in the classroom can be utilized in the workplace,” Agcaoili said. “The hospitality industry houses so many different job possibilities from accounting, information security, branding and so much more. Although all within the same industry, each role maintains the same goal of putting the guest experience first.”
Agcaoili’s supervisor, IHG’s director of procurement and Kennesaw State alumnus Amar Doshi, has been impressed with Agcaoli and with the University’s hospitality management program.
“What they are doing at KSU is fantastic,” Doshi said. “There is a lot of potential. The curriculum that Leonard has shared is really impressive. I’m excited to see how the program and the college continues to grow.”
Ayele is similarly impressed with the quality of the hospitality management program and its students.
“When [Majetich and Brown] graduate, they will always have a place here,” she said. “We like to promote from within, and they won’t have to wait for another company to give them an opportunity.”
Kennesaw State’s hospitality management program launched in Fall 2020 as part of the Michael A. Leven School of Management, Entrepreneurship, and Hospitality. Its goal is to prepare graduates for leadership positions in accommodations, tourism, leisure and more.