April 7, 2008

Hotel School Hosts 83rd HEC Weekend

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Tradition stipulates that year after year, the dean of the School of Hotel Administration kicks off Hotel Ezra Cornell by posting a sign on his door saying that this year’s event will be the “best ever.” According to Jessica Rubin ’10, marketing director of HEC, attendees boasted that the 83rd annual, weekend-long educational conference really was just that.
HEC, which began last Thursday evening and concluded on Saturday with a closing cocktail party, hosted a number of leaders in the hospitality industry. The program allowed students to attend a wide array of educational seminars and leisure activities, while applying what they learn in the classroom to the hospitality business. [img_assist|nid=29602|title=Top chef|desc=Former hotelies and parents of current students participate in the Culinary Mystery Box competition as part of Hotel Ezra Cornell on Saturday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“I chose to participate in the annual conference because it is the ultimate showcase of a year of hotelies’ hard work and a great way to network with industry leaders,” said Kristen Fernandes ’10, operations function manager of HEC.
According to Justin Forman ’10, front desk function manager of HEC, approximately 75 percent of students in the Hotel School helped manage the weekend’s entirely student-run event. A 16-member Board of Directors spear-headed the weekend, which marked the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and coordinating. The board managed the event’s $150,000 budget and oversaw the staff of student volunteers.
An additional 70 students held managerial positions, and a number of students volunteered in all aspects of the weekend’s events.
“All components of the weekend, which included everything from coordinating education panels to preparing food for our 16 food and beverage events, [were] planned and executed by the student volunteers and student managers involved in HEC,” explained Liz Longstreet ’08, food and beverage director of HEC.
HEC hosted approximately 200 guests, according to Rubin, 150 of which resided at the Statler Hotel.
“This was the first year we incorporated using ear pieces and radio, which is something a lot of hotels cannot pull off,” said Forman, who supervised check-in throughout the weekend. This eased the check-in process, he explained, and allowed student volunteers to address attendees by name.
Rubin acknowledged that year’s HEC excelled at being “very personalized.” She acknowledged that students worked to ensure that attendees were welcomed in ways that satisfied their personal needs.
For example, upon arriving in Ithaca, Joy Hou ’98, director of Barclays Capital, was greeted with animal crackers for her young daughter who accompanied her to the conference. Another guest was so distraught over parting with her dog for the weekend, student organizers left a framed picture of her dog in her hotel room.
Aside from ensuring a hospitable environment for the guests, students also attended a series of educational events. Rubin said that she found the panel discussion entitled “Setting the Scene: Industry Update” to be the most notable. Mark Lomanno, president of Smith Travel Research, Mark Woodworth ’77, executive vice president of PKF Consulting and Peter Yesawich ’72, chairman and CEO of Y Partnership, contributed to the discussion on the current state of the hotel industry by offering insight on where they saw the industry a few years down the line.
“There was a lot of energy between the three speakers as they discussed the current hospitality scene, and the guests really enjoyed it,” Longstreet said.
Other events included a “Power Sleep” presentation by Prof. James Maas, psychology, a brunch hosted by Dean Michael Johnson and a honey tasting with Glenn Card, a professional beekeeper.
The weekend’s festivities concluded with a closing cocktail reception, which took place on Saturday evening in Statler’s Beck Atrium.
“[The reception was] a great end to the weekend and is an important recognition for all the Hotel School students who are involved in the planning of HEC,” she said.
“HEC doesn’t just allow you to get that resume building experience, but rather the type of experience that you can learn from and apply in the future,” Forman said.