In addition to her responsibilities as president of Terranea Resort, Terri A. Haack, has another enviable job—that of furthering the careers of the next generation of hoteliers. This hospitality industry veteran recently told LODGING about her involvement with the Scholarship Committee of the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AHLEF), the charitable giving arm of AHLA, through which promising hospitality management students can receive awards of up to $7,500 in scholarship to further their careers.
How did you first become involved with the AHLEF Scholarship Committee?
My involvement dates to 1993 or 1994, when a colleague suggested that I formalize my longstanding efforts to guide young people in our industry to pursue higher education by reviewing the essays of scholarship applicants. At that point, I hadn’t even attended a scholarship committee meeting, but there I was with this huge stack of envelopes containing people’s life stories and why they were choosing to further their education. It was pretty amazing.
What do you look for while evaluating applicants?
I spend a lot of time trying to understand what their motivation is for either continuing education or seeking education for the first time. I also look for a sense that they love hospitality and that it has become their passion. Some applicants will describe how they didn’t think they could ever do or be anything, and then find themselves rapidly advancing in hospitality, moving from being an hourly worker to a supervisor to even assistant manager or manager. I love that this scholarship allows these individuals to continue their journeys.
What advice would you give potential scholarship students?
I would tell them not to let life get in the way of pursuing your education. Even if you have to pause for a semester because you need to work and make more money, that’s okay. Just pause; don’t stop. Too many students—especially those starting college when they’re older—think it has to be all or nothing. They need to understand that it’s okay to take a break from school and go back. Scholarship students must also appreciate the opportunity and make the most of it, because a donor like myself donated the money so they could further their education. We already believe in them and know they will do great things for the industry.
Do you have any advice specifically for women, who received 75 percent of AHLEF’s scholarships this year?
I would advise them to focus on the business side of our industry as much as learning the soft skills because they will need to marry both to move up. Often, it’s the soft skills that attract people to hospitality, but it’s the hard skills that keep them employed and move them ahead. They should therefore take all the hard classes that go along with classes around human resources and developing people. They should also be very diligent at developing their emotional intelligence because you need to understand people so you can inspire them. It’s really important that all students realize that hospitality is a business, and they have to have business discipline. If they can learn that early on, they will be successful in our industry.
What do you like best about the hotel industry?
I love that I can use the two things that I’m best at. First, I have an inherent desire to please, and hospitality is all about pleasing others—whether it’s a guest or an associate or an employee. That fuels my heart. But, second, I believe that I have a very strategic business mind, and that fuels return on investment for an owner. So, I’m able to drive business initiatives but also have this great care and concern for others. The hospitality industry allows you to do that.