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New Course Teaches Hospitality Leadership Development

For nine Hilton College students, Spring Break was all about seeing leadership in action. As part of the Emerging Hospitality Leadership Development class, developed by Associate Professor Priyanko Guchait, students learned firsthand what it takes to be at the helm of a successful hospitality operation. The class met on March 9-13 before instruction went online due to the coronavirus.

Over a period of five days, students visited businesses in five hospitality sectors: Pappas Restaurants (Pappas Steakhouse, Pappasitos and Pappadeaux), Raising Cane’s, H-E-B, 8th Wonder Brewery and Hilton Garden Inn. At each location, students spent valuable time with vice presidents, area directors, owners, general managers, recruiters and department managers.

“It was a great hands-on learning experience,” Dr. Guchait said. “Students had the opportunity to see leadership in action through shadowing, walking tours, panel discussions on various leadership topics, and by engaging in conversations about leadership style, decision-making, people management and more.”

At 8th Wonder Brewery, for example, the day started with a panel discussion about leadership and entrepreneurship, with panelists including co-founder and brewmaster Aaron Corsi, who also teaches the College’s Alcoholic Beverage Production class. The brewery’s marketing manager, purchasing manager, distribution manager and quality control manager also joined the panel.  

“This was a great session for students who want to open their own businesses, as we covered product development, managing risks, the importance of networking and developing relationships, finding collaborators and partners, generating funds, as well as recruiting, training and managing people,” Dr. Guchait said.

At the end of the day, students were divided into teams and tasked to identify challenges and solutions relating to the brewery’s business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each team presented their findings and recommendations, with each presentation followed by detailed discussions about the pros and cons of the solutions offered.

“This course is the ultimate example of experiential learning,” Dr. Guchait said. “By spending time with leaders in varied hospitality sectors, students are able to picture themselves in similar roles. They also noted the skills and competencies they need to develop to attain such leadership positions in the future.”

Vanessa Johnson, a senior with an emphasis in restaurant management, enrolled in the class with a desire to connect and communicate with remarkable people who are leading and managing today’s hospitality industry. She especially appreciated the opportunity to see the daily operations of each business.

“I spent the last nine years in the U.S. Army developing my personal leadership style, but I knew there was so much more to learn,” Johnson said. “The face-to-face interaction I received in this class also allowed me to enhance my problem-solving skills with real world situations, including the global pandemic we are facing today." 

(Story: Pearl Cajoles | Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Priyanko Guchait)

Posted on March 26, 2020