ETTRICK, Va. — VSU College of Agriculture Hospitality Management Department hosted over 100 participants on Friday for the 2023 National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH) to advance students’ insights and career opportunities within the industry.
“We’re honored and excited to be hosting the NSMH Eastern Regional Conference,” said Berkita Bradford, associate professor and Department of Hospitality Management Chair. “This is an excellent opportunity for hospitality students to sharpen their networking skills, meet hospitality industry leaders and secure that perfect internship or permanent position. Additionally, is an applied-learning experience for VSU hospitality students who helped plan a conference for a national organization.”
The event hosted a stellar keynote speaker, Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation, who discussed the importance of knowing your own identity and standing firm in it while remaining flexible and adaptable. “Your constitution drives your resiliency,” she said. Furthermore, the hospitality industry revolves around customer experiences. “It’s about how you make people feel,” she said. “What you say still matters, but it’s how you make them feel that matters most.”
Fritza Camille, University of the District of Columbia Community College senior seeks to enter the manger-in-training program that best suits her values, passions and skills. “I came to this conference to gain updated industry information and recruiter perspectives, and to network with peers and industry professionals,” she said. “My takeaways from the keynote are the importance of planning, staying committed and analyzing before reacting.”
VSU junior, Prince Harris, who serves as secretary for NSMH and treasurer for the Culinary Club, plans to build a hospitality company comprised of hotels and restaurants that also host events. “My main takeaways are understanding the importance of pivoting and that everything may not go as planned but faith and passion for your craft will get you through your struggles.”
Industry experts representing Disney, Hilton, Hyatt, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Accor, Aramark and Compass Group answered student questions during a panel session and conducted interviews for internships afterward. Panelists agreed resumes should be one page and error-free. They should not be a list of tasks, but rather a demonstration of your interpersonal, customer-service and problem-solving skills, growth potential and personality. Volunteer positions give an indication of your values and personality.
“This is the premiere event for black students to get into the hospitality industry,” said Dr. Scott King, director, Division of Business, at the University of the District of Columbia Community College. “If black and minority students are not part of NSMH, they are doing themselves a great disservice.”
–Erica Shambley, Virginia State University