Designed like an elegant hotel lobby, the Student Experience Room within DePaul University’s new J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Center for Student Development and Engagement provides a welcoming new home for hospitality students to meet with industry mentors. The room is just one of the many unique features of the recently completed student center at DePaul’s School for Hospitality Leadership, which hosted a grand opening for the facility this fall.
“This new space allows us to provide our students with the very best in hospitality leadership education,” said Misty Johanson, director of the School for Hospitality Leadership, who welcomed university and industry leaders, alumni and advisory board members to the center’s opening reception Nov. 3. “It was created to provide a sense of place for students working one-on-one with student groups and clubs, and to have mentoring sessions with industry and our executives in residence.”
The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., DePaul president, thanked The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation for its generous $1.8 million grant that funded the center’s construction and programming. “With the support of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation,” he said, “we are providing our students with a tailored educational experience focused on developing the leadership skills that help them bring the comforts of home to their customers.”
The new center provides a gateway for DePaul hospitality students to access individualized mentoring, career guidance and customized internship planning. The center also hosts professional development seminars for students on soft skills, etiquette and career readiness, as well as networking events that engage students with alumni and industry leaders.
Tom Robertson, general manager of Marriott International, said the foundation chose to invest in DePaul because its hospitality school, part of the Driehaus College of Business, does an exceptional job of preparing students for hospitality management.
“We are pleased with the students and graduates who come to us from DePaul’s hospitality leadership program,” he said. “In the last two years, the company has hired five DePaul graduates into the Marriott Voyage program, a highly competitive management-in-training program that invests in young graduates who we see as future stars in the industry.”
Industry Outreach Efforts Grow
As the School for Hospitality Leadership celebrates the opening of the new center this fall, it continues to nurture future hospitality stars through other industry outreach efforts.
The school was chosen to host the Midwest Regional Summit of the National Society for Minorities in Hospitality in October. With the theme of “Planting Seeds for Hope,” more than 40 accomplished students from hospitality schools across the Midwest had the opportunity to participate in professional development sessions and mingle with top hospitality managers and educators of color.
"The support of Misty Johanson and our many industry partners has been vital to the success of this conference," says Brian Barker, DePaul hospitality leadership instructor, who helped organize the event . "As a result of this support, Chicago has been chosen as the host city for the coming years. Our industry partners rely on diverse pools of candidates, so our school's efforts to host this conference not only aligns well with our Vincentian values to support diversity, but also the needs of our industry partners".
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