As faculty, alumni and members of the hospitality industry flooded the Statler Hotel for the 92nd Hotel Ezra Cornell Conference, hundreds of students within and outside of the hotel school successfully took over the management of the hotel from Thursday to Saturday last week.
The student-run event is planned and organized nearly a year in advance by 16 board members and over 200 student volunteers spanning the “Hotel School and Beyond,” said Warner Hazell ’17, managing director in the conference program.
The conference featured events such as guest lectures on the topic of advancements in the hospitality field, sponsored activities such as “Starbucks Tasting” and networking opportunities with prominent figures in the industry.
These events centered around this year’s theme: Face the Future, Preserve the Past, which emphasized both the transitioning hotel school and the evolving hospitality industry in today’s increasingly technology-based world.
“We’re ready to adapt to the future but at the same time we want to recognize our identities as hotelies and to allude that to the hospitality industry as well,” said Jaimie Kim ’18, program director. “No matter what kind of changes that may come through technology or other types of policy changes, we should be able to retain the essence of hospitality, which is service.”
While faculty advisor Prof. Heather Kolakowski, food and beverage management, offered consultations with the students, the event was primarily executed by the students themselves. This served as a great opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the different aspects of the hospitality industry, according to Euna Hur ’20.
“It showed me a lot of ins and outs of the hotel and how much work it actually takes to pull of one of these huge events,” Hur said.
Having been involved with HEC since his freshman year, Franklin Yang ’17, rooms director, also added that this experience even helped him secure his post-graduate plans.
“This experience is what really helped me land my next job after graduation,” Yang said. “If I didn’t have the experience that I have now, I would not have gotten the offer that I had.”
Yang added that the variety of guests and speakers exposed him to different aspects of the hospitality business as well.
“Just about every single industry is completely covered,” Yang said. “They all come and converge, and it’s essentially a big meeting of the minds, so it’s a very valuable experience, and there’s a lot of reasons why people come.”
Many alumni enjoyed returning to Cornell to meet with old classmates and professors, according to Diana Delli ’11, assistant general manager at Untitled at the Whitney Union Square Hospitality Group.
“I was definitely looking forward to coming back and just catching up with faculty and classmates,” Delli said. “After graduating and working in hospitality and then coming back … all the experiences [can be] applied in different scenarios. It’s fun being back on the other side.”
While the planning for next year’s event has not begun, Yang anticipates it to be even better than this year.
“Each conference is going to be great and each conference we expect is going to be better than the next one, which is the never-ending phrase: this year is going to be the best ever,” Yang said. “Everyone learns from mistake they’ve made to make a stronger department as a whole.”