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October 2014


Showcasing the Scientific Side of Hospitality
Three standout students represented Hilton College this month at UH Undergraduate Research Day: Lydia LiouJeffrey Clark and Karla Acosta (pictured left to right). The annual research fair, held at the M.D. Anderson Library, gives Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) participants—and other students who’ve conducted substantial research projects—the opportunity to showcase their work through poster, paper and creative presentations. All three of the Hilton College participants have been working with Dr. Jay Neal and Dr. Sujata Sirsat in the College’s Food Safety Lab and prepared detailed poster presentations for the fair. Specifically, Karla’s work focused on food-safety practices in restaurants, Jeffrey’s on the food-safety practices of produce processors and Lydia’s on reducing cross-contamination at farmers markets. Lydia, who was among the SURF participants this year, was also recently recognized as one of just a handful of outstanding first-year students by the Honors College. Honors College Dean William Monroe said Lydia was singled out for her “leadership, determination, agency and focus, as well as her service and academic performance.” Pretty impressive, right?! We couldn’t be more proud of these scientific superstars… Kudos to all! (Photo: Taylor Wiley)
Introducing Chef Mark Riley
There’s a new face in the Hilton University of Houston and Hilton College kitchens: Executive Chef Mark Riley! Chef Mark comes to us from Brix Wine Cellars and brings more than eight years’ banquet experience in country clubs and resorts, including Houston Country Club and Barton Creek Resort in Austin. He’s a Bayou City native, a graduate of the culinary program at the Art Institute of Houston and also spent time studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. When he’s not whipping up magic in the kitchen here at work, Chef Mark enjoys cooking Cajun food for his fiancé at home. His favorite part about the new job? Working with the students, of course! “I’ve thought many times over the years about how rewarding it would be to be able to teach and mentor young people—especially those interested in the culinary arts. Now, I’m getting that chance,” he said. Welcome to the family, Chef! (Photo: Taylor Wiley)
Alumni Spotlight: Finding a Niche With Numbers
As an undergrad studying catering management, Tanya Venegas (BS ’01, MHM/MBA ’05) never thought she’d carve out a career as a number-crunching researcher. In fact, she didn’t even know anything about accounting! But that’s exactly what happened when, at the suggestion of Dr. Agnes DeFranco, she got involved with the Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) Americas Research Center, which is housed at Hilton College. It was only supposed to be a temporary job while she got her master’s, running the Center and helping HFTP members from around the world with their research. Twelve years later, she’s still at it, now serving as an HFTP fellow, the Center’s executive director and making a significant impact in the world of hospitality education. She’s the co-chair of the 2015 iHITA (International Hospitality Industry Technology Association) Conference, a leader of the Global Hospitality Accounting Common Practices international database project, and a member of the HITEC Advisory Council, where she helps plan the educational portions of the HITEC Conference—the world’s largest technology conference for the hospitality industry. She’s also the co-advisor for the UH student chapter of HFTP, which will be honored as the student chapter of the year—for the second year in a row—during the HFTP Conference (at which Tanya, of course, is a presenter) held this month in New Orleans. It’s a dizzying schedule for sure, and Tanya’s doing it all on top of her favorite role as a wife and mom to three busy kids! Her best career advice for students and recent grads? Be open to all the possibilities. “I never expected to be in this position at a university, but I took advantage of the opportunities as they presented themselves, and it’s been a fantastic experience. You just have to be open to finding your passion in life, even if it’s something you never considered before. You never know where it will take you,” she said. Great advice from an exceptional alum! (Photo: Taylor Wiley)
Remembering Red Steger
Club management icon and longtime Hilton College supporter W.R. “Red” Steger, CCM, has passed away. Red, pictured second from left with Bob Southwell, CCM, scholarship recipientJeanette Arias (’10) and Joan Brecunier, CCM, mentored scores of students during his 30-year tenure as GM of River Oaks Country Club and was one of the founders of the Southwell, Steger, Brecunier Scholarship Endowment—which, having awarded more than $35,000 in scholarships since its establishment in 2009, is the College’s second-largest privately funded endowment. Red tirelessly promoted the College’s club management program, was a frequent guest speaker and hired countless Hilton College students over the years, many of whom have gone on to manage their own clubs across the country. A member of the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) for more than 64 years, Red twice served as president of the Texas Lone Star Chapter (in 1958 and 1974) and as president of the CMAA Board of Directors in 1987. Retiring after 45 years in the industry, Red devoted the second half of his career to ushering in the next generation of club managers and raising money to launch The Club Foundation, which provides scholarship support and other educational opportunities to hospitality students interested in club management. He is dearly missed. If you would like to make a donation to the Southwell, Steger, Brecunier Scholarship Endowment in honor of Red, contactMiguel Cabrera at