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From the Chalkboard to the Front Line
Leading Hotel Schools of the World Provide International Exposure

By Kathleen Hogan, MBA
January,  2011

When bridges are built between the worlds of academia and business everyone benefits.  Students are better prepared to enter the workforce and compete for the desired positions.  Business acquires fresh talent that is ready to hit the ground running.  Academia provides an education relevant to current needs and jobs in the marketplace.  Mutual support and collaboration fosters positive change and invites greater advancement for everyone involved.
This series on Hospitality Student Internship Programs highlights different approaches offered by major hospitality programs at colleges and universities.  The first article featured the internship program at the flagship campus of Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.  The series continues with a private university program from upstate New York that is a founding member of a global network of hospitality schools.
The College of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Niagara University has a co-op program that allows students to work in an industry position, either during the summer or while taking classes, and to earn academic credit.  I recently had the opportunity to ask Kathryn Finamore, Director of Experiential Opportunities for the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Niagara University,  about the internship program(s) for her hospitality students with the following questions:

How do you develop international assignments?  We develop our international programs primarily with the support and assistance of our Leading Hotel Schools of the World partners.  Currently, we have two experiential programs in place.  The first is a work abroad program in Lake Como, Italy.  Each year, over ten weeks during the summer, approximately ten College of Hospitality students live and work in Lake Como.  They are each assigned to a hotel in advance and they typically live right on property.  The experience is life changing as it exposes them to a level of luxury that most have not seen before.  We have several hotel partners in Lake Como, including the Villa D’Este, which is regarded as one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.  Over the course of the summer, the students learn how to properly cater to guests based on the high standards set by these properties.  This experience makes them extremely marketable to upscale and luxury hotels in the United States.
Our other international program is a cultural immersion program in Peru with our partner school, Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola (USIL).  Each summer approximately six students spend the summer in Peru, splitting their time between the capital of Lima and the world renowned tourist destination, Cusco- the gateway city to Machu Picchu.  The students complete multiple “mini-internships” at different hospitality organizations such as hotels, restaurants and travel agencies. 
They also take culinary classes at our partner school, as Peru is famous for its wonderful cuisine.  In addition, the students complete community service projects and other cultural immersion activities and excursions.  We’ve found that this level of exposure to the Peruvian culture has provided an unforgettable experience to our students and has been equally impressive to potential employers. 

With regard to your co-op program, how does the approval process work and how long are the internship programs?
  All of our students are required to complete a minimum of 800 hours of industry experience prior to graduation.  For this requirement we do not need to approve their positions in advance as long as they are in the hospitality, tourism or sport management industries.  We do, however, offer an opportunity for students to complete an internship for academic credit.  We call this our co-op program.  In order to participate in co-op, the student must have his or her position approved in advance by the director of experiential opportunities.  The position must be one in which the student is given an elevated level of responsibility or where he or she is relied upon to complete some sort of special project. 
Approval is provided on an individual basis.  Students may either find their own positions or they may choose from the internships that have been pre-approved and posted in our job bank. 
To successfully complete a co-op the student must complete a minimum of 200 hours in one semester.  They are also required to keep a daily log and write a term paper at the end of the experience.  In addition, their employer will need to complete an evaluation on their performance.

Travel/tourism is a global growth area.  What are current student interest areas in tourism and how does Niagara University cultivate these internship areas?  We spend a good amount of time cultivating relationships in the tourism sector of the industry because we do have a growing level of interest in this arena.  New internships are continually being developed through networking with industry contacts, industry associations and alumni networks.  
We’ve found that students have increased interests in theme parks, national parks, tour operators, attractions and destination marketing organizations.  We’ve been able to offer many internship opportunities to students in these fields and work with many organizations regularly to ensure that we have qualified students working with them each semester.
Special event planning has become an extremely popular segment of the industry over the past several years.  We’ve pushed to find not only new and unique internship opportunities in this area but also offer experiential opportunities in which students could gain hands on experience and exposure to many different types of social events, fundraisers, conventions and meetings.

Can you share some successes concerning career placements for students who participated specifically in one of these internships?  It is somewhat common for a student, who does a phenomenal job in an internship, to be offered a full time position upon graduation.  One example of this is the Niagara Falls Conference Center, in which we have on average, three students interning each semester.  In the past two years they have hired two of our students for full time, supervisory positions directly as a result of their internships.  One of our 2008 graduates now actually oversees their internship program as part of her responsibilities.
Another example is with Hyatt Hotels.  Each year Hyatt hires a number of NU students for summer internships at various properties throughout the US.  In 2009, one of our student interns was granted a full time manager-in-training position upon the completion of her senior year as a result of her internship.  She is now a manager at a Hyatt property in Washington DC.  This year we had another student receive the same offer after successfully completing a Hyatt summer internship.  He will graduate in May and has already been offered a manager-in-training position at an agreed upon property.
We have many other examples of similar situations.  Because of the strong relationships we have built with employers over the years and because of our track record of graduating mature, hardworking, experienced students, many organizations come back to us year after year for interns and, upon graduation, managers.  
The College of Hospitality and Tourism Management website further identifies hospitality partnership agreements with Carlson, Cruise Abroad programs with Carnival Cruise Lines, interactive projects at the Waldorf=Astoria and a number of major industry excursions every year.  The alumni association operates an active mentoring program and more than fifty leading hospitality companies recruit at annual job fairs on the campus of Niagara University.
Closing comments from
Meeting tomorrow’s staffing needs does not happen by chance, but rather through close collaboration between existing hospitality businesses and the colleges and universities who support each other in preparing the next generation of hospitality professionals.

Kathleen Hogan, MBA is Co-Founder and Publisher of  She has a background in management, banking, and finance with a Master’s Degree concentration in Human Resources Management.  In addition, Kathleen is a hospice volunteer in Phoenix, Arizona, where she currently resides.


 Kathleen Hogan, MBA

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Also See: Growing Your Hospitality Career Up - Part 2 of 2 / Kathleen Hogan / January 2011

Growing Your Hospitality Career Up - Part 1 / Kathleen Hogan / November 2010

From the Chalkboard to the Front Line - Blending Academics with Hospitality Internship Programs / Kathleen Hogan / October 2010

Luxury Hotels on Italy's Lake Como Provide Intensive 3 Month Internships for Niagara University College of Hospitality and Tourism Management Students / January 2007

Test Driving” New Co-Workers Through Internships / Denise Moretti and Kathryn Phelps / February 2006

The University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management Provides Students with Intership Opportunities All Over the World; Gives Students Advantage When it Comes to Competing for Industry Jobs / August 2007


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