Many seniors graduate from college with one big goal in mind — get a job. Obtaining that first position out of college is an exciting, yet nerve-racking prospect. Rigorous college course work provides students with a wide range of knowledge, but few classrooms give students the real-world experience that they will need to be competitive in the workplace.
The MU Hospitality Management Program is very aware of this, which is why they encourage their students to apply for internships. In fact, they value real-world experience so much that they developed a partnership with the MU Reynolds Alumni Center-University Club.
About seven years ago, the head of the HM Department, and the general manager of the Alumni Center, John LaRocca, began an internship program available solely for HM students.
The Lucky Few
Although the University Club employs an abundance of student servers and staff, there are currently only four student interns. The internship application process is treated like any other professional job; however, the positions are only available to students in the HM program.
The applications are available online, and students go through an interview process. “We are willing to train anyone,” says LaRocca. However, there is a certain criteria he looks for with his interns, and said the main thing students need is the desire to learn.
Availability also plays an important role in the selection process because the University Club treats this internship like a job students will be getting after graduation. Most HM careers require a substantial amount of hours, and some aren’t always the most appealing. Interns are required to work several holidays, and many weekends; however, this is a small sacrifice that many are willing to make to gain the experience that the University Club has to offer.
The staff is willing to work with and around student’s class schedules. “School comes first, but we want to be second,” says LaRocca.
This is an annual program where students begin in August, and finish in May after commencement. The majority of the interns work 15-20 hours per week. And not only do they receive a salary, but they also receive course credit through the HM department as well.
That Real World Experience
Unlike a server or a bartender at the University Club, the interns gain experience in several areas. The first semester the interns rotate working for the banquet, dining, culinary, catering and event planning departments. After this experience, they rank their top two choices for where they want to remain for the second semester.
LaRocca says, “Even if the students don’t get the emphasis that they want, they still gain experience from it. They will need to be diverse in whatever area they go into after graduation, and we are trying to prepare them for that.”
Once they have their assignments they act almost as a supervisor for their department. They have several managerial duties such as forecasting, budgeting and planning, along with working the actual events.
Students gain a unique education from each experience. Although working for a hotel would also provide students an equal skillset, private clubs tend to have a higher expectation level. Interns are constantly working private and even white-glove events, which require a lot of preparation and professionalism.
Interns have worked events for the Dean and Chancellor, as well as events with more than 2,500 people. “People are always in shock of their skills because they are only 19-21 years old,” says LaRocca. The training prepares them for many situations, and the students continually receive great reviews.
A Word from Their Manager
LaRocca, General Manager for the University Club, has been in the HM industry for more than 30 years, and with the club for nine. He tries to instill a hard work ethic in the interns. Many students have high hopes for their futures, and he is involved with the HM department to ensure that they can achieve them.
“Overall, this program and the students have been a grand slam,” says LaRocca. He is constantly receiving calls from hotels and companies looking for students to hire, and several of the HM interns have gone on to receive great jobs after graduation.
LaRocca feels that it’s important to give back to your industry, and he feels that the internship program allows him to do that. Aside from providing the HM students with the internship opportunity, the University Club also offers scholarships to HM students each year.
LaRocca, and Eliza Tse, chair of the HM department, are constantly collaborating on ways to improve the program. The Club is working on starting their recruiting process earlier this year, and hopes to see many students apply for this internship opportunity.