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The Marriott Center for Hospitality Management Opens at the University of Massachusetts;
Whole New Level of Education for  Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management Students

By David Humphreys, Daily Collegian, Amherst, Mass.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Apr. 30, 2007 - A new $6.3 million facility atop the Campus Center of the University of Massachusetts has opened to make hospitality and tourism management students more competitive, the latest evidence of a UMass strategy to increase its national competitiveness by leveraging state funds with private dollars.

The new facility is named the Marriott Center for Hospitality Management after J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott, the late benefactors of their private foundation who awarded $2 million in two separate grants to construct the facility in the space, previously known as the "Top of the Campus." The Marriotts were the founders of the world-wide food service, hotel and hospitality management enterprise that bears their name.

To fund the new facility, the foundation contributed two grants of $1 million each -- the first to fund a 200-seat Marriott Dining Room; the second, to help build a state-of-the-art production kitchen and two laboratory-classrooms, according to University officials who held a dedication ceremony last Friday.

The remaining $4.3 million was funded by 20 other beneficiaries including: Mohegan Sun, Ninety-Nine Restaurants, the Massachusetts Lodging Association, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association and Darden Restaurants Foundation.

The new Center now houses all of HTM's food and beverage operations, replacing older facilities that had been split between Chenoweth Laboratory and Skinner Hall. The new kitchen includes some of the most up-to-date culinary equipment, and the classrooms and laboratories contain new equipment, as well.

The result will be a "whole new level of education for students," according to Hospitality and Tourism Management Department Head Rod Warnick.

"We can do things here we would never have been able to in the past," Warnick said.

The Center will be used mainly for Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management classes and events intended to provide students a hands-on working environment. But the Center also can be booked for private events and is open to the public during regular restaurant hours. The Marriott Center also may be used for wedding receptions and conferences.

Serving both lunch and dinner during the week, the students working at the restaurant can expect to see between 40 and 70 customers each semester, according to junior Timothy Gould, who spoke at the dedication. Lunch and dinner prepared by students are served to the public at the facility from Tuesday through Thursday, costs $8 and $10 respectively.

Marriott Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Selection Stephen Bauman, who represented the company at the dedication, said the foundation donated $2 million because it's "invested in educating tomorrow's leaders in hospitality, tourism and management.

"We want technically proficient leaders to perform in our industry, particularly [at] Marriott," Bauman said. He said his company classifies UMass as a "Tier-1" school, to which the company pays "more attention to curriculum, careers and recruiting."

Chancellor John Lombardi called the Center a "remarkable resource for events on campus, where students learn how to deal with a high-end facility."

Senator Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said, "[UMass students are] now going to have the best kitchen available to actually work in, compared to what they have been working in for a number a years."

Although there was no state funding in building, the Center there is now a commitment to match the generosity of the Marriott Foundation, Rosenberg said.

A new plan by the UMass Board of Trustees and the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education anticipates providing $4 billion in support for public colleges across the state, Rosenberg said.

"Too much capital expenditure is on the back of the students and that is going to change," Rosenberg said of the plan citing that 25 years ago, the state would be paying for most, if not all, expenditures.

"UMass' campus has an enormous need for renewal and the Commonwealth has been AWOL in the support it needs for facilities," Rosenberg added. If the Legislature passes the plan, UMass' Amherst campus will receive $1.1 -- $1.2 billion, he said.

Soren Bisgaard, Dean of the Isenberg School of Management, said, "If we can become the primary supplier [of graduates] to a company like Marriott we are doing something right."

Senior Katherine Scheffler, another speaker at the dedication, related her experiences of working in the new facility and managing it in her HTM 355: Menu and Quantity Food Production Management Class. In HTM 355, students learn how to manage a working restaurant by hosting meals to real customers.

She said that other than being a state-of-the-art facility, the Marriott Center makes students more competitive in the job market by offering them opportunities they might not have at another less advanced facility.

Bisgaard said UMass has New England's only four-year program in the hospitality field. UMass is the No. 4 ranked HTM school in the country, according to the Gourman Report, part of the Princeton Review.

The Marriott Center, which is 14,000 square feet, will offer not only basic culinary and beverage laboratory-classrooms but also a realistic restaurant environment where students will learn how to manage and work in all aspects of the food-service industry.

The facility itself is lined from ceiling to floor in glass walls, windows and chrome, while classrooms contain brand new desks and equipment. Known informally as the "Top of the Campus," the Marriott Center offers a commanding view of the entire UMass campus and surrounding areas.

Lombardi concluding by saying that, with the addition of the Marriott Center, UMass can continue to have a nationally competitive Hospitality and Tourism Management program.

David Humphreys can be reached at dhumphre@student.umass.edu.

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Copyright (c) 2007, Daily Collegian, Amherst, Mass.

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