Networking opportunities prepare UAPB students for careers in the hospitality industry

From left: Stephanie Smith and Trenay Hayes, students majoring in hospitality and tourism management, and Dr. Suzzette Goldmon, assistant professor and coordinator of the hospitality and tourism management program at UAPB.

Two hospitality and tourism management majors at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff recently attended the National Association of Minorities in the Hospitality Annual Conference and Career Fair in Miami, Florida. During the conference, junior Trenay Hayes and senior Stephanie Smith were able to network with industry leaders and conduct internship interviews, said Dr. Suzzette Goldmon, assistant professor and coordinator of the UAPB Hospitality and Tourism Management program.

After interviewing with several companies at conferences, Hayes accepted a summer internship at Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio, Texas.

“My biggest takeaway from this experience is that you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself and stand out,” she said. “Employers want you to showcase your talents because they value what you can bring.”

Hayes said she hopes to work in hospitality, catering or event planning.

“Making people happy is a huge part of hospitality, and it really is the best part of any hospitality job,” she said.

Smith interviewed Aramark, a provider of food services, facilities and uniforms.

“The interview experience was great,” she said. “I actually completed my summer internship at Aramark and was able to talk about that experience. The Aramark rep I spoke to was happy to hear that my summer internship was a success for me and that I know the company .”

Smith said she chose to major in hospitality and tourism management because she has always loved cooking, traveling and entertaining people.

“You have to be a person in this industry,” she said. “One day, I’d love to be the owner of an events center and maybe own a fine dining restaurant.”

Trenay Hayes (far left) talks to Sherrell Wilson and LaTonya Johnson (far right), both recruiters for Walt Disney World.

The National Association of Minorities in the Hospitality Industry is known for connecting students with the hospitality industry as a whole, Dr. Goldmon said. This year’s conference, hosted by Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, is a good example of a mature program model, she said.

“I am very pleased that UAPB students have had the opportunity to participate in this year’s conference,” she said. “This is the first time since the pandemic that they have had the opportunity to meet and talk with professionals and other students in person.”

Dr. Goldmon said the annual conference is not limited to participants from historically black colleges and universities, but is open to all hospitality students, including those from predominantly white universities. The event was a great opportunity to share the success of the UAPB program and interact with students from institutions such as Cal State, Cornell University, and Morgan State University. Students from other disciplines such as agriculture, business, accounting, marketing and finance also attend regularly, as there are opportunities for paid internships for full-time employment.

From left: Dr. Suzzette Goldmon, Stephanie Smith and Trene Hayes.

In addition to ensuring her students attend industry conferences, Dr. Goldmon introduces them to her former students who are now industry leaders and college advisors.

“It is important that our current students connect with those who already have experience and help them find promising opportunities,” she said. “A former student of mine is now a general manager for a boutique hotel group that provides regular co-op opportunities for students.”

For more information on UAPB’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program, please contact Dr. Goldmon at [email protected]

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its extension and research programs and services without regard to race, color, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other Legally protected status and an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.

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