For the third consecutive year, Matt Korman ’18 received a scholarship from the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association’s scholarship, a preeminent group of hospitality industry professionals based in his home state.
Each year, a scholarship of $2,000 to $5,000 and entry into a wide professional network is awarded to a select set of outstanding Illinois-native college students. This year, Korman was one of 26 recipients.
When Korman initially applied to the School of Hotel Administration, he dreamed of becoming a chef, he said. Growing up in Highland Park, Illinois, some of his fondest childhood memories were related to cooking.
“I have lots of awesome memories of grilling steak in my backyard with my dad — he loves to cook,” Korman said. “When I was 14 I started working in restaurants … just doing simple things like preparing spinach, but I got super into it.”
Korman went on to work in five restaurants before coming to Cornell. But since his freshman year, his dreams of culinary school have changed. In 2014, he was awarded his first scholarship from the IHLA.
Because the scholarship is renewable, Korman has remained a recipient every year since 2014. Along the way, he has interviewed with industry leaders at Westin and Hyatt, interned at several high-profile restaurants and hotels, and made valuable connections throughout the industry.
“Each individual [chosen for the scholarship] has incredible promise for the future of hospitality and we are excited to recognize their achievements and assist them with college finances,” said Nabil Moubayed, chairman of IHLA Education Foundation and general manager at Kimpton Gray Hotel.
After three years as an IHLA scholar, the senior has switched his academic focus from the restaurant world. Korman discovered that his true passion is to work in the realm of real estate.
As much as Korman loved working as a restaurant consultant or floor manager, he never felt that he was truly contributing to the progress of the industry.
“I never felt like I was fixing anything,” Korman said. “If something went wrong, it would be like, ‘Oh, just put some tape on it.’ I wanted to have a bigger impact than that.”
This summer, Korman received an internship at Harrison Street Real Estate Capital in Chicago through the IHLA network. For the first time, “I could be an innovator, I was on the forefront of things and my work was actually making a difference. I was working 17 hour days but I was interested in what I was doing,” he said.
“I enjoy working with Matt. He is a good listener, he has a great sense of humor, and he works hard,” said Prof. Andrew Quagliata, management communication. “He has a unique combination of qualities and skills that will allow him to excel in whichever field he chooses.”
Korman said his experience as an IHLA scholar has given him the confidence and network connections to discover his calling.
When asked to offer advice to incoming hotelies seeking to achieve the same, he said, “Branch out. Networking is so important professionally and socially. Foster good relationships with your professors and with peers, they will help you later on.”
Even though he has transferred his career to real estate, Korman remains a self-proclaimed foodie. When asked the polarizing question of his favorite on-campus eatery, he responded like a loyal hotelie.
“I have to say Terrace. I’m going to miss Orange Chicken burrito Wednesdays and Fridays.”