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Marriott Foundation Grant to DePaul University Aims to Develop Next Generation of Hospitality Leaders

CHICAGO – A new grant from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation will be used to provide personalized progressive career preparation and leadership development strategies to students enrolled in the School of Hospitality Leadership at DePaul University.

The $1.8 million grant will help establish The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Center for Student Development and Engagement in DePaul’s School of Hospitality Leadership. One of the goals of the new center is to provide students a greater opportunity to engage with industry leaders and alumni for career success. The new center, based in downtown Chicago, is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

“This center will offer all prospective and enrolled hospitality students a visible and effective gateway into the hospitality profession and create important organizational and leadership advantages,” says Misty Johanson, director of the School of Hospitality Leadership.

Coupled with a highly specialized and cutting-edge four-year curriculum, the one-on-one development of soft and professional skills at the center will give DePaul students a competitive advantage as they advance in their careers, Johanson says.

The center’s curriculum will also offer a new ambassador program that will give hospitality leadership students the opportunity to work one-on-one in a mentor relationship at the executive level within the industry in Chicago. “Because of DePaul’s ideal location and tremendous industry support for the program, executives are eager to be involved in the School of Hospitality Leadership and the lives of its students,” Johanson says.

This new center provides DePaul’s School of Hospitality Leadership with additional key tools to help train students for leadership roles in hotels, restaurants and other tourism ventures. The demand for young professionals with advanced knowledge and business skills necessary to successfully compete in a global environment is accelerating, and with the help from this center will allow students to stand at the front of this rapidly growing and complex industry, according to Johanson.

Tools of the Trade

A new physical space, which will open in the fall, will include networking and professional development rooms equipped with updated technology and a space for one-on-one career coaching for students and industry leaders. In addition to the updated space, the grant will provide students a professional development and hospitality industry engagement plan that will be the focus of the center and encompassing the following:

  • Individualized mentoring and career guidance.
  • Customized internship planning.
  • Leadership and soft skill seminars with workshops to include etiquette training and international service culture training.
  • Networking events with programs to engage students with alumni and industry leaders.

“This investment will significantly enhance the ability of the School of Hospitality Leadership to offer generations of diverse students a competitive advantage of academic preparation and professional development, befitting one of the best applied hospitality management programs in the nation,” says Johanson, who is also an associate dean at DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business.

Equipping ‘Next Generation’ of Hospitality Leaders

The hallmark of the programming of the new center, which will be led by assistant professor Nicholas Thomas, is one-on-one individualized mentoring and career planning with the goal of creating innovative, comprehensive approaches to forming and educating the next generation of hospitality leaders.

The curriculum of the center will create, integrate and expand student development and engagement activities. The new center will also introduce processes for guiding and assessing each individual student’s development of knowledge, competencies, skills and dispositions sought in a successful hospitality industry professional, Thomas says.

The School of Hospitality Leadership, which launched in 2010 and is housed in DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business, is one of the nation’s leading business programs. The school developed an industry reputation as a leader in training students with a customized and innovative industry-endorsed curriculum.

A 2015 study by the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Education found DePaul’s School of Hospitality Leadership to be the top-rated most recognized program in Illinois. The study evaluated the status, challenges and opportunities of hospitality programs in the state and used DePaul's program as its benchmark due to its significant growth over the past five years as a result of a well-structured curriculum and increased visibility of the program on campus and in the local community.