As the lead for the new Student Corner at HospitalityEducators.com, helping hospitality students be better prepared in starting their professional careers is a priority. This is the first of a series of “Hospitality Conversations” exploring different internship programs available to hospitality students. As a native New Englander myself and a professional dedicated to “blended learning”, I respect the Johnson & Wales University commitment to blending academics and real world experience.
The business world has voiced frustrations surrounding the time and expense associated with training new hires, who have educational degrees but may have inadequate skill sets for the jobs they will be doing. In the hospitality world, when a ski resort business in its high season needs to hire staff to operate its ski lifts, finding experienced, skilled help is critical. “Time is money” in business, which makes any disconnect between what is learned in the classroom and what is needed in the workforce a costly one. This is especially true with regard to staffing in the hospitality industry.
Finding the way to connect or reconnect academia and business is key to solving the staffing problem. One remedy may be found in the internship programs at colleges and universities that connect hospitality students with hospitality related business owners in the community.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Sandra Tremblay, the Assistant Professor and Director of the Travel-Tourism & Hospitality Internship program at Johnson & Wales University in the state of Rhode Island. Her career includes professional service at Newport Hospitality, the Vanderbilt Hall Hotel and the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.
Our discussion focused on the following four questions:
1. We note your web site overview of Hands-on Learning. One question would be, how do you develop assignments?
Response: Networking and building multi-faceted relationships with both internal and external industry partners is key to the success of any Internship Program. Some of our partnerships include the Rhode Island Tourism Division, the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau, AAA, the Radisson Hotel, TF Green Airport and our own Johnson & Wales Inn. In addition to their Internship assignments, Travel-Tourism & Hospitality students participate in industry events and perform community service.
2. Internships – how does the approval process work? How long are the internship programs?
Response: Students are screened one trimester ahead of the start of the upcoming internship program. Candidates are sent an application to complete and return, which is then reviewed by the program head to determine the best fit within the available site placements matched with the student’s identified interest area. The next step involves a one-on-one interview with the program head and is often followed by a second interview with the lead person from the site assignment.
There are fall to spring internship programs available with each one lasting a full trimester. Sophomore Hospitality students are required to participate in an internship program as part of their degree program fulfillment. Each internship is 11 weeks in length. Week one is for orientation, weeks 2 through 9 are spent working on specific assignments at one or more sites, week 10 is an international trip followed by a final exam in week 11. There may be other reports and assignments given students in and around the 11-week internship. The final exam draws upon the student’s previous academic knowledge in combination with their personal insights from the internship experience and earns them the equivalent of 3 courses (13.5 credits).
Since the internship is required, the cost for the International Familiarization Trip is paid for within the trimester tuition, including the professional dress uniform required. Students need to have enough spending money to cover their meals and personal item purchases while abroad.
3. Travel/tourism focus – this is obviously a global growth area. What are current student interest areas in tourism and how does Johnson & Wales cultivate these internship areas?
Response: The student interest areas are quite varied and often change with exposure to new areas during the internship program. The industry partnerships forged through our networking efforts have afforded the students many opportunities to work in a wide variety of industry areas. Every assignment pairs students with the supervisor or teaching assistant at the venue site, where they gain real world experience performing the responsibilities of the job with full accountability under the normal pressure associated with the position.
Currently, International students comprise roughly 32% of our Internship Program enrollment and they are paired with students from a different country in order to foster a cross culture exposure and familiarization. The destinations of our international trips rotate and have yet to repeat during my five years with the program. Our trip destinations have included China, Singapore, Czech Republic, France, Costa Rica, South Africa (just to name a few) and now Italy. We cross regions and continents in our travel, making the experience truly international. It should be noted that the international trip destination is not made known to the students until the beginning of each Internship Program in order to manage balanced enrollment.
4. Can you share some successes concerning career placements for students who participated specifically in one of these internships?
Response: We have students who, for example, have landed positions with Delta Airlines, the Preservation Society of Newport (Newport Mansions), and Marriott Hotels. Our students graduate with enhanced skill sets through their real-world work experiences and participation in the Internship Program. The students have improved abilities in the areas of time management, organizational skills, customer service skills and professional appearance as a direct result of the Internship Program.
They are able to include these work experiences on their resumes, which adds value and increased opportunities for starting their professional careers. The university devotes a whole department to career development to ensure students find the best possible position available to them.
For more information on this particular program, go to
Closing comments from HospitalityEducators.com:
When bridges are built between the worlds of academia and business everyone benefits. Students are better prepared to enter the workforce and compete for the desired positions. Business acquires fresh talent that is ready to hit the ground running. Academia provides an education relevant to current needs and jobs in the marketplace. Mutual support and collaboration fosters positive change and invites greater advancement for everyone involved.
Kathleen Hogan, MBA
Co-Founder and Publisher of HospitalityEducators.com