“Our Support Never Ends”

Dayna DeFiore & Tara Marsh

By: Dayna DeFiore, assistant director, Career Education and Development and Tara Marsh, HTMS internship coordinator, School of Business 

Hospitality at its core is the act of being friendly and serving others, while welcoming them into your space. In the spirit of all that encompasses the meaning of hospitality the Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management (HTMS) academic program along with Career Education & Development (CED) at Stockton University invited students, alumni, faculty and employer partners into virtual spaces to serve and support them in meeting rapid shifts in needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HTMS program fosters professional development throughout the students' academic program, requiring them to obtain a minimum of 625 work hours by graduation. As such, graduates are equipped to launch professional careers upon degree completion. The program continues to engage with graduates through alumni networking events, professional panel series programs and invitations to speak in classes about their experiences. As expected, the HTMS alumni are always ready to step in and serve the program when called to do so. To foster a sense of connectedness to the campus and other alumni, while serving as an opportunity to network among professionals and learn about professional development opportunities a “Pineapple Partnership” webinar series was developed and launched in Summer 2020. Four sessions in all were offered that covered topics on job search strategies, professional development opportunities and professional associations in the fields, graduate school programs and the process, ending with a faculty roundtable conversation.

HTMS Flyer
Virtual Meeting Events

It goes without saying that HTMS alumni have grit and attended the “Pineapple Partnership” programs with optimism about the future of the hospitality industry and their own destiny in the field. Even with the uncertainties ahead, the spirit of hospitality and serving each other was present in each session. One participant reflected, “I loved the networking aspect of it. I always learn something new whether it was advice/information from staff or another graduate.” Specifically, attendees shared professional development opportunities and ideas on how to stay engaged in the field, build skills and credentials and to deepen relationships with those in their network. The sense of belonging and knowing that the Stockton community is always there resonated with attendees. Another participant noted, “I think it was excellent, especially since this was a new program. It was a great way to still feel connected with Stockton.” 

With the HTMS alumni set up for success and confident that their ever-resilient industry would soon begin to bounce back in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the HTMS program and CED transitioned to focus on its employer partners and those relationships as the Fall 2020 semester began. It was the development of the “Remember Stockton” webinar series that encompassed three monthly events built to help support and sustain industry partners’ commitment to working with students on employment, internship and long-term career paths.

The first webinar, “Reconnecting With Us,” kicked off in early October and focused on increasing the employer partners’ knowledge of recruitment services and tools that Stockton has to offer to support them in interacting with students and alumni for networking and workforce development purposes. During this webinar, one of Stockton’s Handshake representatives, the campus-wide platform used to list employment/internship opportunities for students, highlighted the different features of the program and answered questions about targeted recruitment times on campus. Career Education & Development also discussed additional opportunities for employers to get involved on campus such as career/hiring fairs, the Employer-In-Residence program which allows employers to visit classrooms and share career information with students directly as well as targeting days to visit campus to table outside of Career Education & Development and meet with students on a one-on-one basis, all of course conducted when it is safe to return to meeting more in-face. The second webinar, “Reevaluating Your Needs,” took place in mid-November and consisted of a panel of industry partners and educators who shared how they assessed both staffing and educational needs pivoting to support the industry and students during this time of uncertainty. Panelists engaged in a very meaningful conversation and focused on the positives to come out of such negativity centered around the pandemic. 

“All of us face obstacles along the way and adapting to swift changes in how classes are presented (in person or virtual), will help you immensely in your career choices as many companies have made quick changes as well.”  -Webinar attendee

The third and final webinar, “Rejuvenating Your Workforce/Company”, commenced the first week in December and brought together a culmination of program/school updates, notes on how students continued to stay involved over an almost fully virtual semester, internship success stories and a celebration of the partnerships between the employer partners and Stockton’s HTMS program and CED. One attendee shared their feedback from attending the webinar series and stated that “hearing perspectives from current students and how other employers are adapting to the pandemic” was what they enjoyed the most. Another attendee took the time to reach out to CED, requesting to connect with those students that participated in the third webinar and encouraged them to continue their path to their degree, stating, “All of us face obstacles along the way and adapting to swift changes in how classes are presented (in person or virtual), will help you immensely in your career choices as many companies have made quick changes as well.” 

As the partnership continues to grow, all around, our support will never end. It is with great enthusiasm, excitement and optimism for the future of the industry that the Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management academic program and Career Education & Development are actively preparing for the Spring 2021 semester and have several opportunities already scheduled to engage with employers and students.