Alumni Voices



Interview with Stephanie Kneble

Stephanie Kneble '17

Stephanie Kneble

Stephanie Kneble '17

Hello, my name is Stephanie Kneble and I graduated from Stockton with my bachelor’s in Hospitality and Tourism in 2017. I have worked for several hotels and restaurants in Atlantic County since I was young. My family and I bought a restaurant located in Mays Landing called Freddy J’s Bar & Kitchen. We purchased the property in April when the pandemic began to impact the United States and we decided to renovate the property during the quarantine period. We officially opened to the public on October 23, 2020 but since then decided to temporarily close our doors during the holidays to keep our team and community safe.

My role on property is General Manager as I oversee and organize the front and back of the house for optimum efficiency. Using my bachelor’s degree and the knowledge I acquired from my professors at Stockton has been monumental in my decision-making process throughout this unprecedented time in history. This public health crisis has impacted not only the staff and patrons but also the vendors and distributors delivering products to our property. The New Jersey COVID-19 Regulations are continuously changing as the world adapts to the new information we are receiving about this virus and how it affects our bodies.

As a facility, we have altered the way we interact with guests and other team members. We feature hand sanitizer at every entrance as well as maintaining social distance. For our guests we offer pre-rolled silverware, individual packets of all condiments, and disposable menus. Stockton professors have instilled skills of critical thinking as well as strong social skills when interacting with staff members, patrons, and purveyors. During classes such as Operations Management, Hospitality Management, Sustainability, and Food and Beverage Management they broadened my ability to think of unconventional solutions that will both adhere to the standards of our facility as well as CDC guidelines.

As students graduate from the hospitality program and enter into this field, positions and companies are evolving as we approach a new “normal.” Companies have eliminated positions that were once offered to individuals and customer interactions are being altered to maintain a healthy environment. As the industry evolves, graduates will need to adapt alongside businesses as they develop new ways to connect with patrons and engage the community. Social media is a strong marketing force that allows businesses and guests to interact, maintain relationships, and attract new consumers. Graduates should develop new skills or evolve on skills they currently have that will make them a qualified candidate adding value to a company. The Atlantic County hospitality industry is extremely small and building a strong network of individuals is crucial. Anyone can be an asset and all experiences on the job are lessons to be used in the future. Being patient, persistent, and passionate will go a long way in this evolving industry.

Freddy J's Logo

Interview with Thomas Stanimirov

Thomas Stanimirov '17

Thomas Stanimirov

Thomas Stanimirov '17

The HTMS program at Stockton has prepared me for nothing short of this public health crisis. I am loving the industry, with its struggles and with its barriers. Working during the pandemic has been challenging to say the least but I have adapted thanks to the professors and classes taken at Stockton. I was able to understand the process of outdoor dining all while working in a residential community. I was able to understand the frustrations the community shared with having special events hosted outdoors and the music limitations, the newest parking situation and traffic flow. I was able to do research to help avoid any residential frustrations and problems that may have arisen. Stockton prepared me for the worst of it all and the best of it all and I could not be any more grateful to all of the HTMS professors. My advice to the undergraduates or those who are just joining the industry: take this time with a grain of salt and as a learning technique. If you think this is challenging , just wait until we can reopen the world again. It will be chaos and if you love this industry then you will love the chaos. And Lastly, NETWORK, network, network. It will be your saving grace through and through.

Interview with Gabrielle Ward - December 16, 2020

Gabrielle Ward '18

Gabrielle Ward

Gabrielle Ward '18

Royal Bine Brewing is a passion project between myself, an HTMS graduate and current MBA student with Stockton University, and my father, Kenny. In March of 2020, when widespread panic had only just begun and the impacts of the spread of COVID-19 were still unknown and unnerving, our progress came to an abrupt halt. Seemingly overnight, our architect was suddenly away until further notice, our main investor went completely missing in action, and the projections we carefully formulated over the previous several months became invalid.

Currently, we are in the process of securing a small business loan for our Absecon-based craft brewery - a route we initially agreed to avoid. Though our chosen lending company is traditionally keen on funding breweries, conventional bank lending has drastically changed as a result of the impacts of COVID-19 as banks are now wary about funding startups in today’s climate. With a smaller initial investment, we’ve reconsidered our brewhouse capacity and distribution model to reflect a slower, steadier growth model. While we mourn the loss of what could-have-been, we shift our focus toward honoring the most important reasons for the birth of this passion project - to celebrate the individuality of every hardworking woman and man who crack a cold beer at the end of another day and to increase tourism to the small, historical city of Absecon, NJ. We return to a very grassroots approach for now with hopes that our second, third or fourth location may experience the grand opening we dreamed of prior to the presence of COVID-19.

We are excited about our freshly forged journey and we remain optimistic as all hospitality students and emerging professionals must do during these incredibly unprecedented times. While there is typically always work to be found within the hospitality industry, every sector from travel and tourism to event coordination to food and beverage has been negatively impacted since the spring of 2020. Right now, it is imperative for emerging professionals to recall and maybe reassess their “why” in regard to choosing a career in hospitality. This time away from normalcy may be used for soul-searching to identify a niche segment of the industry, networking with current industry professionals, and exploring various industry-related resources such as podcasts, newsletters and certification programs. Now more than ever before, our industry symbolizes patience, buoyancy and innovation. Together, let's commit ourselves to these virtues to ensure that the hospitality and tourism industry flourishes upon entering a post-COVID world.

Royal Bine Brewery Logo


Angela Wedemeyer '04

Angela Wedemeyer

Angela Wedemeyer '04

Upon graduating from Stockton in 2004, I have had the pleasure of working at a variety of properties, beginning at the front desk at the Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa, to a department head at the historic Providence Biltmore, director and opening member of NYLO Providence, followed by director of rooms at The Inn at Perry Cabin, which led me to my roles in Baltimore from director of operations to opening general manager at the Delta Hotels by Marriott.  I have recently celebrated my 10 year anniversary with Aimbridge Hospitality and my second year as General Manager at the Embassy Suites BWI Airport, recently being honored in Hospitality Magazine, as a 2020 GM to Watch.  

Over the years, I have experienced many challenges, but none quite like those presented in 2020.  With the COVID-19 pandemic taking effect in mid-March, our industry was faced with a tragic and immediate effect truly never seen before.  We were faced with a series of difficult decisions and unanswered questions as there was no precedent for what we were experiencing.  As general manager, it fell to me to make the necessary changes in order to keep the doors open.  The hardest part was having to reduce a staff of almost 80 down to seven.  Those of us remaining became the front desk, housekeepers, complimentary attendants, shuttle drivers, engineers and everything else in between.  The hotel had no more than two team members on at any time from the end of March until July, when we finally sustained enough business to bring back some of our team members.  Staffing was just one necessary change.  We altered our cleaning and engineering procedures to ensure our guests and team members were kept safe.  This included working closely with our management company, CDC guidelines and local regulations to set standards including when it was safe to enter the rooms, requirements of new PPE and additional chemical and cleaning protocols.  We continued to make changes as more information was determined about the virus. 

In addition, we had to adapt a new direction with our revenue management practices.  We followed demand, traveler trends and competitive set analysis to put appropriate strategies in place in order to capture the little bit of demand that was left in the market.  The complete impact of COVID-19 is still yet to be determined, but we will continue to assess and adjust with each coming day.   

Although only time will tell what the future holds, I have no doubt that our industry will overcome this, just as it has all other challenges thrown its way.

For those getting ready to embark on their professional journey, I offer a few thoughts to keep with you.  
  • You will only get out of your career what you put into it.
  • Take initiative.  Do things without being asked.  
  • Be positive.  Everyday.  Always.
  • Be the person everyone comes to.  Be the person others count on.  Make yourself valuable.
  • Be a part of the solution. Be the example. Be better every day.