Posted December 3, 2014

In senior seminar, students get hands-on experience

Ryan S. Brandenberg
Students in STHM can take advantage of numerous opportunities for networking and professional development.

While most seniors spend their final year worrying about research papers and exams, students in the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) have some different concerns.

Every fall, senior students majoring in tourism and hospitality and sport and recreation management complete a senior professional development course led by Jeffrey Montague, CPH ’93, associate vice dean of STHM, and Rick Ridall, CLA ’89, CPH ’92, assistant professor of sport and recreation management and director of the Center for Student Professional Development.

The class prepares students for internships they will participate in during their final semester and for their future careers by simulating the experience of working at a small company.

“Our goal is to develop productive members of society who have the ability to think critically, be innovatively savvy and build their personal brand,” said Montague.

“The class is run like a business. The professors are the CEOs, and we have a president, a vice president and committees,” said Chynna West, Class of 2015. “We have an agenda for every day and for committee meetings, so it really prepares you for the real world.”

Instead of completing homework assignments or a research project, students host several events. On Nov. 12, the class held a Career Day for STHM students in Mitten Hall. As a “company,” they planned, fundraised for and facilitated the event.

Ridall and Montague make a point to create real-word situations in the classroom, as well—students might be required to give an unplanned speech or present an off-the-cuff, five-minute elevator pitch.

“We put all of our associates, or students, into positions that are comparable to a real place of employment, and we keep them always off kilter, in a good way, to make them feel prepared for any situation,” said Ridall. “That is the essence of the course.”

The semester culminates in a semiformal networking event hosted by the class. This year’s semiformal will be held at the Four Seasons Philadelphia on Friday, Dec. 12, from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $90 each and can be purchased online.

The proceeds from this year’s event will help fund the new STHM International Travel Scholarship, which will enable STHM students to study abroad and experience the sport and recreation and tourism and hospitality industries of a different country.

“We are thrilled to be the first group to raise money for this new scholarship and give other STHM students the opportunity to study internationally," said Aliza Levin, Class of 2015. 

- Lindsey Murray