Serving up Careers in Hospitality Management

“There is a constant labor shortage in the hospitality management industry, and students have multiple opportunities after graduation, in fact, almost all of the students have jobs before they even graduate.”

As I was approaching the 11 o’clock Casino Management class — who knew there even was such a thing — to speak with the students in the Kent State University of Ashtabula hospitality program to get their perspectives and insights, I thought I could detect some unfamiliar sounds. It sounded like laughter and loud excited chatter emanating from the room, the happy sounds reverberating down the hallway to greet me.  Not a sound one generally expects to hear in the hallowed halls of college, especially during finals week. Entering the classroom, I see my initial suspicions were indeed correct. The students are casually gathered at their desks in a circle, and they are laughing and sharing their latest findings from their recent site visits to their respective casinos and putting out their ideas and discoveries. Ulicney, their instructor, is there and acts as a facilitator, but for the most part today she lets the student engage in their conversation while occasionally interjecting and asking some specific questions to get them to focus on another perspective. 

The students themselves confirm my conjecture that this class was . . . oh what’s the word . . . fun, that’s it. I was welcomed with a warm greeting from Ulicney and smiles and hi’s from the students. They seemed curious and happy that I was there to talk to them! When I comment on all the revelry, Katie Uterhark, who is graduating in a couple of weeks says to me, “The class is like one big family, this is such a fun major . . . I know a lot of students who take this as an elective for a different major and then completely switch their major to this after seeing what is available in hospitality management.” Nick Pizzi, a junior, pipes in with, “A lot of people think hospitality management is just about restaurants and hotels . . . but it is so much more than that. I am still trying to explain to my dad I am not in school to become a chef” and the class erupts into laughter once again, including myself.

Have you ever wanted to work at a 4-star resort?  As an event planner perhaps? Coordinating banquets, managing catering services, and organizing special events. Or, does working at a PGA championship golf course appeal to you more? Planning internal tournament/social events, organizing special events for club members, and developing contracts for and overseeing administrative and operational aspects of events and functions at the club? Perhaps you have a vision of working in the entertainment business as a P.R. ambassador? Maybe you are more inclined to work in a private lodge as a guest services manager, or hotel logistics manager? Possibly, working and managing a casino in your home area or venturing to Las Vegas or another big city appeals to you? These and many others are just a few of the fascinating and fulfilling careers that you can have and that some of Kent State Ashtabula’s Hospitality Management alumni have gone on to enjoy after graduation. Full-time positions with a commensurate salary that offer bonus opportunities, paid time off, health/dental/vision/life insurance, 401k options and other traditional employee benefits. It almost sounds too good to be true, right?

“The common denominator is that all of the jobs provide a service, and their mission is to deliver a good experience for people and to ensure members’ and guests’ expectations are exceeded.” - Associate Lecturer Mandy Ulicney

In speaking with Mandy Ulicney, an associate lecturer in Kent State Ashtabula’s Hospitality Management program holding a master’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Kent State University, it is clear she believes it is not too good to be true, but is in fact, a reality.  Ulicney finds it “gratifying and rewarding to see her students go out into the community and find interesting and unique jobs that they enjoy,” and says, “There is a constant labor shortage in the hospitality management industry, and students have multiple opportunities after graduation, in fact, almost all of the students have jobs before they even graduate.”

The Bachelor of Science degree in hospitality management at Kent State Ashtabula has a unique structure. Students can begin earning a one-year certificate in hospitality management while continuing to work either part-time or full-time outside the college. They can then build upon the one-year certificate they have already completed and go another year to complete a two-year Associate of Science degree in hospitality management. Then, the opportunity is there to pursue their bachelor’s degree using those first two years towards that final degree. In other words, each program builds upon the next, and this enables students to not only attain their bachelor’s degree, but it also leaves room for working in the field and living their life concurrently, accomplishing and enjoying both at the same time.

Classes are partially online with one or two sessions a week for in-class learning. Students in the degree program complete a professional internship of 270 hours in an area of their choice and complete it with a total of 400 hours in another capacity. Ulicney says many students come into the program with an idea of where they want to head in hospitality, but after becoming exposed to and experiencing all the different hospitality sectors throughout the program, they often change their mind and find a hospitality avenue that is more suited to them.  

The program prepares students for careers in many major hospitality industry segments such as club managers, hotel event planners, cruise line entertainment managers, wedding planners, resident DJ’s, bartender, but Ulicney says “The common denominator is that all of the jobs provide a service, and their mission is to deliver a good experience for people and to ensure members’ and guests’ expectations are exceeded.”

All the students expressed appreciation of the flexibility of the classes offered, and Kara Norman, a junior, clarifies saying, “It is phenomenal, the faculty are aware and respectful of the fact that many of us have full-time jobs outside of the classroom, and they are amazing at accommodating all of our schedules.” 

The students also wanted to point out the large amount of volunteer opportunities that come their way in hospitality, giving them excellent professional and networking opportunities. And, the other positive they all agreed upon was that if you wanted to stay close to home after graduation, the opportunities were there and available, but if your goal was to travel and spread your wings there were tremendous opportunities outside the area as well. 

The top 10 hospitality jobs paying $75K or more according to a recent salary data survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are:

  • Casino Restaurant Director
  • Hotel Manager 
  • Regional Restaurant Manager 
  • Travel Manager 
  • Slot Operations Manager 
  • Food and Beverage Director 
  • Meeting/Event Manager
  • Head of Housekeeping

The Hospitality Management program at Kent State Ashtabula focuses on careers in major hospitality industry segments through academic and research programs valuing quality of life, business success, collaborative partnerships, creative approaches, and ethical principles. Hospitality Professional associations include the Club Management Association of America, Professional Convention Management Association, Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, and the National Restaurant Association.

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Karen Wiese is an applied communications studies major at Kent State University at Ashtabula and a writing intern in the Communications and Marketing department. 

POSTED: Thursday, July 25, 2019 11:10 AM
UPDATED: Friday, December 09, 2022 08:11 AM
Karen Wiese, Communications and Marketing intern