ATLANTA — Officials of Castell Project, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the careers of women professionals in the hospitality industry, announced that during 2021 Castell@College, female executives will speak with some 1,800-2,000 hospitality students on the verge of launching their careers. Through this Castell Project initiative, female executives share real-life stories of opportunities, challenges, and rewards of a hospitality career with the goal of strengthening students’ interest in the industry and its career opportunities.
During the fall of 2019 and early in 2020, Castell@College refined its approach and messages at a select number of schools. When scheduled live events for the spring of 2020 were canceled due to COVID-19, the organization recognized that students would need extra support and reassurance as they faced entering the industry during an economic downturn. A restructured approach using technology led to invitations from 25 schools to speak with 900 students during the fall semester. Castell@College is scaling to reach double the number of schools and students in 2021.
“At first, we were devastated not to be talking with students face-to-face. However, switching to a virtual platform was a ‘silver-lining’ that allowed us to scale the program much faster than we had thought possible,” said Fern Kanter, co-chair of Castell@College and a member of the Castell Project board.
During a Castell@College session, panelists fashion their career and life experiences into stories that capture the attention and imagination of students as opposed to providing advice in a lecture format. These stories describe the variety of roles available in the industry, the bumpy path of a successful career, how a strong career provides resources for family and personal life, and tips for starting a career in uncertain times—particularly given current conditions. More than 120 female hospitality executives have volunteered to participate in Castell@College panels.
Dr. Lynn Minnaert, academic chair, clinical associate, professor, Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, New York University, said, “Our students were very impressed with the fall’s Castell@College. It is so refreshing to hear top hospitality professionals speak in an open and honest manner about their successes and struggles. Students felt engaged, heard, and inspired.”
“Castell@College showed me there as so many career paths open to me in the hospitality industry,” said Caroline Waters, student, School of Hospitality Business, Michigan State University. “Thanks to what I learned during this program, I am more confident and excited to enter the hospitality industry and join the amazing women I had the opportunity to meet.”
“Thanks to three amazing volunteers who gave a tremendous amount of time and thought, the initiative has a solid foundation to grow and serve the hospitality industry,” commented Peggy Berg, chair of Castell Project. “Fern Kanter, Lan Elliott, and Heather Jacobs’ contribution to the future of hospitality is significant and much appreciated. Through Castell@College, a stronger, more informed pool of talent will be available as the industry re-emerges.”