For these are jolly good fellows
How enterprising students find success through experiential workplace learning.
By Rachel Bruner
Several times a week, sales intern Devin Andersen sits down at her desk and begins her day by coordinating hotel events and inputting information for the hotel’s records. Though the office is tucked out of sight, and small compared to the grandeur of the hotel, it’s here that her big dreams are taking shape.
“Through this internship, I’m hands-on and involved with the day-to-day operations of what I plan to make a career in the future,” Andersen said. “Being able to really see and feel what these managers are going through is the eye-opening experience that prepares me for my career.”
Andersen is one of three Metropolitan State University of Denver students fostering their entrepreneurial and managerial dreams as part of the Rita and Navin Dimond Fellows Program this spring.
Working as interns in the Dimonds’ Stonebridge Companies network of hotels, the fellows aren’t performing ordinary internships. They shadow and support the teams that call the shots. They have the opportunity to learn about every operational aspect of the hotel industry, from the kitchen to the marketing department.
Pamela Yang, a spring 2017 fellow, appreciates getting to see all the different aspects of operating a hotel and restaurant. “I’ve learned how all sides need to work together as a team to make everything run smoothly for guests.”
A program born from experience
The fellows endowment program is a direct result of a generous gift that the Dimond family made to MSU Denver in 2014.
The Dimonds, who run 47 properties nationwide, knew adversity before finding success in the hotel industry. Navin Dimond is the product of hardworking immigrant parents who arrived in the U.K. with minimal English language skills. His parents pieced together a living, from working in factories to driving buses. Neither went to college. Almost no one he knew had a college degree.
“I should not be where I am today,” said Dimond, who also served on the University’s foundation board. “All the odds were stacked against me. If I can impact one person’s life by giving them this opportunity to see what is possible and what they can achieve, then I’ll consider this program a success.”
Not unlike Dimond himself, new fellows have their own distinct stories of triumph and tribulation. Perhaps more important, they have big dreams.
Andersen grew up in the breadbasket state of Kansas and began working in her parents’ restaurant at age seven. She realized she would be a “lifer” in the industry when she fell in love with event planning while studying at Kansas State University. She later moved to Colorado and transferred to MSU Denver after researching hospitality and events programs across the United States.
“I found MSU Denver’s program and instantly knew I would find my place there,” Andersen said.
Through the Dimond Fellows Program, she began interning with the sales team at the Hilton Garden Inn Denver-Cherry Creek to broaden her knowledge and skills across different areas of the industry. As a result of this internship, she has decided to pursue a job with a hotel sales team after she graduates this summer.
Yang is currently interning at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Denver Tech Center, where she’s learning the ins and outs of each department, gaining multifaceted experience. She realized she was passionate about restaurant management, an industry she’d already been working in for eight years, when an advisor asked her what she really loved about the industry.
“My ears instantly perked up and I said, 'My passion is cooking and making sure that customers in a restaurant have the absolutely best time when they visit,’” she said. “I’m so very fortunate to have the opportunity.”
Another fellow, Hyemin Lee, who moved from her native South Korea to study hotel management at MSU Denver and improve her English, is an intern at the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel. After she graduates in December 2017, she wants to work in hotel guest services or in a banquet department, helping others avoid the occasionally uncomfortable travel experiences she has endured while learning to speak English.
“My purpose is to help people whose first language is not English,” she said. “I will apply to properties in San Francisco where many foreigners stay, to be a support for them because I know firsthand what it’s like to not understand or speak a language.”