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Oct. 01--The institution that offered the world's first undergraduate degree program in tourism is adding to its repertoire of high-level experiential learning opportunities for students, thanks to a new partnership.

Niagara University and the Merani Hotel Group recently announced an agreement that will synergize efforts to develop the outstanding hospitality leaders of tomorrow.

Beginning this fall, students in NU's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management will have the ability to gain hands-on experience with executives of the Merani Hotel Group, which owns five hotel properties in the Niagara Falls region. Three of Merani's properties are located on the American side of the falls, with the other two situated in Ontario, Canada.

Merani also operates a food truck and four restaurants, including a new Anchor Bar location in Niagara Falls.

"We are excited to enter into this educational partnership with Faisal Merani, who has proven himself to be a phenomenal hotelier and businessman, and an equally impressive advocate for the growth and development of our region," said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. "At the heart of this collaboration is the goal to grow the binational tourism industry for the betterment of our economy, a strategy that must be seeded in applied learning through -- and beyond -- the classroom."

Added Dr. Kurt Stahura, dean of NU's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, "Father Maher often talks about the importance of learning laboratories, places where students can really roll up their sleeves and apply the knowledge they've acquired in the classroom setting. Once again, Niagara University is taking that extra step to provide students with the opportunity to couple a first-class college education with real-life hospitality work experience."

New scholarships will be included in the arrangement for Niagara University students who are interning or working with the Merani Hotel Group. By 2020, plans call for an additional annual scholarship to be granted to a Niagara County high school graduate who is enrolled at NU and interning at a Merani property.

"We have been extremely impressed with the quality of the students and recent graduates of Niagara University who have either interned or worked on our properties," said Merani. "Due to the binational presence of Niagara University and our hotel group, the experiences that we will offer students will greatly impact their global career opportunities upon graduation. At the same time, developing and sustaining a pipeline of experienced, accomplished young leaders is of utmost importance to the hospitality and tourism industry."

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