Some things simply cannot be taught in a hospitality school classroom, such as everyday operations, upholding brand standards, and real-time responses to customer service issues. With hands-on experience, hospitality students quickly learn how to apply school lessons to the real world, elevating their preparedness for post-graduation life. This is why Scott Perry, who is both the general manager of SpringHill Suites Denver Downtown and a professor at Metropolitan State University, says the unique partnership between his property and the university is so valuable for students.
Built on the college campus in downtown Denver in 2012, the SpringHill Suites, which is managed by Sage Hospitality, was funded by a bond offering. The hotel’s profits not only go toward paying the bond back, but also to hospitality scholarships for the Hospitality Learning Center and the growth of the hospitality program at MSU. “They wanted to rebuild the hospitality program from the ground up, similar to how they did the hotel,” Perry says.
The hospitality program, which is intertwined with the hotel, is what Sage Hospitality and the Hospitality Learning Center at MSU call a “teaching laboratory.” Students work alongside professional staff and learn everything from housekeeping department tasks to front desk operations to the ins and outs of food and beverage, which all lead to experiencing live customer service management. “When they graduate, they don’t just have a piece of paper, they have actual experience to reference and pull from. It’s the vision of what we do here at this hotel,” Perry explains.
Perry says the most gratifying aspect of such a business model and program is realizing the impact it has on the future leaders of the hospitality industry. Perry reports that 70 percent of students enrolled in MSU’s hospitality program are hired within Colorado immediately after graduation. “To be able to inspire and guide students to the right path, in order to help grow and direct the industry, is a very rewarding process for me,” Perry says.
Hands-on learning is a vital component to success for students in the job market, he says, as employers feel a sense of reassurance when learning of their practical experience. The students also learn about the various hotel industry brands and how they’re positioned in the marketplace. “There are so many brands out there to choose from,” Perry says. “If I can teach them the notion of what brand culture is, they are going to be so much more marketable.”