It’s been a dozen years since my parent’s drove me to Ithaca, New York for my first day of college at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration (SHA), the most prestigious hospitality program in the country. University plays a significant part in every undergraduate’s life. College is the first home that you create for yourself.
College forces you to accept independence, choose maturity, and hopefully embrace a diverse educational opportunity. But there is something different about The Hotel School. In the past decade the buildings, landscape, and people have changed, but the pulse of SHA has not. It beats with a commitment to lifting others. Beyond the relationships I developed with my uniquely hard working peers, my tether to SHA was secured by our passion for hospitality and our drive to question the status quo.
As “hotelies” we learned to develop and nurture pure emotional connections in creative and innovative ways. We are famous for experiential courses, which surprisingly don’t include napkin folding. Similar to our counterparts in prestigious culinary programs also pursuing highly specialized vocational degrees, practical application affords a unique learning experience that truly pushes one’s boundaries.
Recently, I have been returning to Cornell twice a year. I visit in the fall for recruitment and in the spring for Hotel Ezra Cornell. For this one weekend in March, undergraduate and master’s students pursuing careers in the most adventurous business school in the world assume control of the teaching hotel on campus. The signature annual business conference is an opportunity to return to my alma mater for programming on current happenings and industry trends. It is also an opportunity to connect with the next generation of leaders in our field.
This year’s theme was, “Welcome to the new normal.” The weekend addressed the unprecedented change disrupting all sectors of the hospitality industry.
What have I learned from my recent visits?
First, I can still be confused for a teenager, which is both comforting and insulting.
Second, there is no normal! The new normal is to accept the exceptional.
Third, pay it forward. It’s a privilege to have just hired my fourth “hotelie” and each has been pivotal in the success and growth of our business. Our NYC sales office now has five SHA graduates and one CIA alum!
When hiring potential employees, experience is important, but our industry needs creative, young entrepreneurs in all facets of the industry. There are students in hospitality and culinary programs in our backyard with unique skill sets who are eager for a sustainable professional opportunity. Isn’t it time to make room for these hungry millennials on our side of the business?
Last weekend I hopped out of a cab in downtown Ithaca behind three intelligent and passionate entrepreneurs, each of whom shared the same undergraduate experience as I did, years after. None of them had planned to go into foodservice distribution. In fact, I am not sure they even knew a career on this side of the industry could be so uniquely diverse and rewarding.
Whether it’s SHA, your alma mater, or one of the local culinary schools, take a trip and meet the new normal. It is a lifetime business after all.
Morgan Tucker is Director of Business Development at M. Tucker, a division of Singer Equipment Company. Ms. Tucker works with a wide diversity of acclaimed restaurateurs, celebrated chefs, and industry leaders across the U.S. Her website littlemtucker.com is an exceptional resource for equipment and supplies solutions. Morgan is based in NYC and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.