School of Hospitality Leadership receives grant for career development center

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School of Hospitality Leadership receives grant for career development center

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On May 20 the DePaul School of Hospitality Leadership announced it would be receiving a $1.8 million grant from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation to create a career preparation and leadership development center for its students.

The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Center for Student Development and Engagement will be located in the School of Hospitality Leadership on the Loop Campus and is set to provide students with everything from individual mentoring and career guidance to various forms of training and networking with both alumni and industry professionals to go alongside with what they are taught in classes.

“We have the classroom time, which is really great, but we also have these ancillary support mechanisms that exist,” Nicholas Thomas, assistant professor and director of the Center for Hospitality Research and Education, said. “One of those great ones we have here is the Career Center and most students at DePaul will take advantage of that. What the center is really going to do is be one of those ancillary things. We’re not going to compete with the career center; we’re really here to complement it.”

Nestled in downtown Chicago, the DePaul School of Hospitality Leadership — though only seven years old ­— already gives students an advantage over most other similar programs in the country due to the fact the city is such a bustling hub for the hospitality industry.

“It’s a huge advantage,” Thomas said. “A lot of our students are very engaged with the industry, whether it’s working a part-time or full-time job in restaurants or hotels, whether it’s doing one of the two internships they have, whether it’s (being part of) the student clubs … that really gets them out in the industry – that gives them a significant edge.”

Freshman Kenzie Mocogni had similar thoughts when she was choosing what college to go to after finishing up high school and said DePaul’s location is what sold her on it.

“That was a big factor in my decision to come here and I feel like being right downtown, we’re already at such a competitive advantage with our location and our faculty who have such great connections to great hotels and industry professionals in the area,” Mocogni said.

With the center set to open in the fall, Mocogni will be able to use it to her full advantage for the next three years, or more if she decides to do the combined bachelor’s and master’s program.

“It’ll help me develop professionally with the help of all of the industry professionals that we already have that work with our school,” Mocogni said. “Having them come in and spend the couple hours a week here and be able to help us and mentor us is really going to be great.”

For senior Emily Greenbaum, she won’t be able to have quite as much time to utilize the center as Mocogni will, but since she’s going to be pursuing her master’s at DePaul, she’s going to make sure she gets the most out of it while she can.

“I was really excited about it because it gives students a lot more opportunities that makes their experience at DePaul unique, more so than at a different hospitality program,” Greenbaum said. “It’s going to be great for students in general.”

Greenbaum has a friend in the hospitality program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and said the differences are night and day here at DePaul and it gives her so much of a competitive advantage.

“Being able to go to work and go to class throughout the day is so different,” Greenbaum said. “I know she has told me that they have to travel an hour to get to Boston to work and going both ways (is tedious), and you need a car. There’s no public transit.

“Location alone is a huge competitive advantage and just the fact that in Chicago, the hotel industry (and) tourism industry that’s going on right now is booming … it makes me feel like we’re on the cutting edge almost because we’re surrounded by it.”