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April 2016

April 2016 

  Hilton College Delegates Attend First Young Hoteliers Summit

What counts as an opportunity of a lifetime? For students Kaitlin Fear (left) and Caitlin Fuller (center), along with their professor Dr. Juan Madera (right), it was an invitation to attend the prestigious Young Hoteliers Summit held every spring at École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL). What made the experience even sweeter is this was the first time since the summit’s inception in 2010 that delegates from Hilton College had “seats at the table.” On March 13-16, student and faculty delegates from 36 colleges and universities around the world gathered for three days of networking, collaboration and educational sessions, the goal of which is to bridge the gap between leading hospitality firms and the future leaders of the industry. All students received their invitations after being nominated by professors in their respective programs. Fuller, a sophomore, at first couldn’t believe she had been selected to travel to Switzerland and EHL, one of the world’s premier hospitality schools and the College’s partner in our joint Master’s in Global Hospitality Business. “Once it sunk in, I was beyond excited,” said Fuller. Indeed, the opportunity was real, and Fear, who graduates in December, was overjoyed to also be selected. “I had no idea three days could impact me in such a tremendous way,” she said. After arriving in Switzerland, the students met up with Madera, who had advised them on some of the ins and outs of international travel. While the three expected to be together during the summit, they received separate itineraries designed to help them get to know and learn from their international counterparts. Madera attended workshops, panels and keynote speeches tailored for educators and industry leaders, while the students were tasked with finding solutions to the Four Seasons (a summit sponsor) Challenge of how to create career paths that could take someone from graduation to GM in nine years or less. Students also visited the celebrated Chateau de Gruyeres, a castle dating back to medieval times. In addition to making global connections and broadening their personal and professional horizons, Madera and his students were pleasantly surprised to learn that although delegates were from different parts of the world, many of their ideas, goals and interests were universal. “We all spoke with different accents and came from different cultures, yet we are still doing similar things,” Fuller said. “We all have the same passion for the industry.” Madera will be back next year with two new student delegates ready for their “opportunity of a lifetime!” (Photo courtesy of Dr. Juan Madera)


  Hilton College Faculty Honored for Teaching Excellence 

Thanks to the excellence and service of five of our faculty members, Hilton College had a strong, proud presence at the University of Houston’s 2016 Faculty Excellence Award Dinner held at the Hilton University of Houston on April 14. The awards, presented by Provost Paula Myrick Short (pictured center), are presented annually to UH faculty who have demonstrated excellence and commitment in the areas of teaching, research, service, community engagement and/or student success. Dr. Agnes DeFranco (right) received the prestigious Career Award, given to tenured faculty who have demonstrated excellence in teaching over the course of their University careers. Dr. Cristian Morosan (left) brought home the Instructional Technology Award, an honor given to faculty who demonstrate excellence in innovative teaching using instructional technology such as hybrid courses, online courses and instructional television. DeFranco, who has taught at Hilton College since 1989, said she is honored and humbled by the recognition. “This award is simply a reminder for me to continue to teach at the highest standard every day,” she said. Morosan, who uses iPads and other technologies to make classes more interactive, believes technology innovations are a bright part of the future of higher education. “It makes me more passionate about how I teach and it encourages me to innovate continuously,” he said. Drs. JéAnna Abbott and Stephen Barth also received awards for 25 years of service, and Dr. Mary Dawson for 20 years of service. Congratulations and “thank you” to our esteemed educators! (Photo: Pearl Cajoles)


  Hilton University of Houston Aces Quality Audit

Numbers don’t lie, and it’s a fact: Hilton University of Houston is OUTSTANDING when it comes to quality, whether in front or back of the house. In March, the Hotel earned an Overall Index Score of 97.04 percent in the Hilton Worldwide bi-annual Quality Assurance Audit, the highest rating it has received thus far. This also is the 8th consecutive year the Hotel has received an outstanding rating! The overall score was a calculation of cleanliness, condition, and guest satisfaction and brand standard compliance scores. The cleanliness scorea whopping 98.73 percentcould not have been achieved without our phenomenal housekeeping team! Dayra Mendez, lead housekeeping supervisor, said the secret to this success (for her team and throughout the Hotel) is one word—consistency! “We treat every day as if there is an audit. It’s just our way of doing things,” she said. When Mendez began working for Hilton nine years ago, she adopted Hilton’s guest-satisfaction cornerstones: to provide consistent, personalized service and hassle-free, inspirational moments. Today, she trains every person on her team to adapt the same service concepts. “If they follow that, everything will just fall into place,” she said. General Manager Fernando Cuellar said the quality ratings affirm our staff’s dedication and attention to detail. “We are so privileged to work with such a wonderful team,” he said. (Photo: Pearl Cajoles)


  Annual GSARC Highlights Student Research

On April 6, hospitality professionals and Hilton College graduate students exchanged ideas, networking information and industry knowledge during the annual Graduate Student Association Research Colloquium (GSARC). This all-day event—organized by the Graduate Student Association with guidance from Drs. Stephen Barth and Ki-Joon Back—began with a welcome breakfast for panelists and guests, and continued with panels about event management, social media marketing and hotel development. The panels, attended by students and faculty alike, were lively with questions and insight from both sides of the room. The final and perhaps most anticipated presentations of the day were those of graduate students, clockwise from left: Martina Bahr (cross-contamination in brewpub settings); Amanda Belarmino (discrepancies in travel review websites); Amanda Hu (perceived value of sommeliers); Chandler Yu (employees and food safety training); and Shina Bharadwaja (influence of gender and traditional attitudes). Our graduate students further showcased their skills and knowledge of their research areas by answering follow-up questions from the audience after their presentations. All were received with much applause and praise. “Our Ph.D and Master’s students did an excellent job sharing their research interests at GSARC. Most importantly, I am so proud of our GSA officers who put everything together,” said Back, associate dean for Research & Graduate Studies. Kudos to all of our grad student researchers and panelists, and to our GSA officers on another great colloquium! (Photos: Pearl Cajoles)


  CMAA Cougar Chapter Shines at World Conference

When your group takes home the Large Student Chapter of the Year award, and your faculty advisor cries happy tears, you know it’s a big deal! So says Lindsey Tafolla, president of the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) Cougar Chapter. On Feb. 21-25, members of the chapter and Faculty Advisor Alexis Hoey attended the 2016 World Conference on Club Management & Club Business Expo in San Diego, a five-day event packed with workshops, keynote speeches, education sessions, and career and mentoring showcases. Students came home armed with a wealth of information and connections—some even landed jobs and internships. But hands-down, the best part of the conference was the joy of being named the best student chapter in the nation. How did the Cougar Chapter come out on top? According to Hoey, through amazing student leadership and commitment. “They are true ambassadors for recruitment,” she said. “They are all on the same page and have the same goals.” Another big contributor to the win was the chapter’s involvement with the UH Club Alliance, a network of club professionals comprised of current students, alumni and friends of the College. Through the Alliance, students interested in club management have a network of managers who can help them develop their careers, including assistance with placement in different areas of the club industry. To Hoey, the award is truly well-deserved. “It gives meaning to all of the hard work that these students have been putting in,” said Hoey. But the award isn’t just about the students. Tafolla said, “This award was not only recognition of the current but also the past members, officers, and our amazingly supportive faculty advisor who worked hard to lay the foundation for us.” Kudos to all on this impressive win! Click here to contact the CMAA Cougar Chapter for information about membership. (Photo: Pearl Cajoles)