Kennesaw State’s Hospitality Management Trainee Program Produces Industry-Ready Graduate

KENNESAW, Ga. | Mar 7, 2024

Braidlyn Atkinson
During her senior year, Kennesaw State University student Braidlyn Atkinson became the first hospitality management student to complete the degree’s new management trainee program, where students gain experience working in multiple departments of a real hotel. Atkins, who graduated in December, leveraged that experience into a full-time position with Peachtree Hotel Group.

The 15-week paid trainee program was jointly developed by Peachtree Hotel Group and Kennesaw State’s hospitality management program, which is part of the Michael A. Leven School of Management, Entrepreneurship and Hospitality.

What sets the program apart from traditional internships is the two-week rotation cycle that exposes students like Atkinson to all the functional areas/departments of a hotel. They complete real tasks – including everything from administration support to reviewing the property’s operational reports – and then provide critical analyses and present recommendations to the hotel's executive team. The immersive experience provides students with a full understanding of the industry and prepares them for the demands of working in the hospitality sector.

“This program was eye-opening,” Atkinson said. “By the end, I knew how each department worked and how each depended on the other to run correctly. I also quickly discovered that I wanted to pursue a career in the sales department.”

Atkinson completed the program at the Embassy Suites hotel in Kennesaw. After revealing an interest in sales, management placed her in the role of sales coordinator. Based on her performance, they offered her the permanent role of sales manager, which she began after graduation.

“Braidlyn consistently exhibits a positive attitude, strong work ethic, and is always willing to go the extra mile,” said Embassy Suites Kennesaw General Manager Jonathan Wikse. “Her dedication to each department and desire to grow her understanding of the industry are what lead us to start her journey in Hospitality Sales.”

Atkinson's journey toward a degree in hospitality began in high school when she worked at a wedding venue for three years, sparking her interest in the field. She decided to enroll in KSU's hospitality management program after attending an open house event where she met the program’s director, Leonard Jackson, who quickly became a mentor to Atkinson.

“Leonard Jackson has guided me throughout my academic career," said Atkinson. "He is the first professor I've had who cares about the success of his students not only in the classroom but also in their careers.”

As a hospitality management student, Atkinson visited numerous hotels in the Atlanta area, connected with industry leaders, and actively participated in events hosted by Cobb Travel & Tourism, a nonprofit focused on growing Cobb County’s reputation as a tourist destination. She also served as Vice President of Marketing & External Affairs for the Hospitality Leadership Club in Fall 2023.

“Braidlyn epitomizes the type of student we are trying to develop via the hospitality management program,” Jackson said. “She constantly excels in her academic endeavors, has an excellent work ethic, and is a great problem solver. Her default skills response to challenges is, ‘yes,’ and, ‘I will figure it out.’”

In addition to Jackson, Atkinson credits much of her success Wikse at Embassy Suites, who collaborated with Jackson to develop the management trainee program with Peachtree Hotel Group.

“While the information they receive in class is crucial, getting real world experience helps prepare them for futures in this field,” said Wikse. “Like Dr. Jackson, we believe in investing in the future of Hospitality. In giving these students an outlet to find their unique career paths, we are also providing the opportunity to make connections that will be valuable throughout their careers.”

As the first student to complete the hospitality management trainee program, Atkinson has demonstrated how giving students the opportunity to try out different segments of the hospitality industry helps them focus their goals upon graduation. The new trainee program is a valuable way for students to gain exposure to the industry and learn what it takes to succeed.

“Without this program, I would still be unsure which section of the industry I wanted to work in, and I wouldn’t be this advanced in my career, said Atkinson. 

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