by Liz Alexander

This week, we hear from Liz Alexander, who shares how mentoring has improved the experience of students in her program. Is there a way that you could incorporate mentoring into the student experience in your classes?

The Austin chapter of AH&LA, which stands for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, has run a mentor program for ACC Hospitality department students for the past two years. The program pairs a hotel general manager or department director with a 2nd year hospitality student for a year of conversations and opportunities, exposing them to industry insights and connections. Students meet with their mentor once a month to engage in various ways. The mentor might take a student to an industry meeting to network and hear a speaker, they may shadow the mentor at work for a day, or they may join them in a departmental meeting to understand issues and opportunities taking place in the hotel. The students have found that the monthly experiences have exposed them to the challenges of managing a business on a day-to-day basis and given them insights into areas of management that they may not have fully understood from a classroom educational setting.

Elizabeth Wong, a 2nd year hospitality student, describes her experience this way:

“My mentor is Mr. Joe Bolash, the General Manager of Doubletree Suites by Hilton Austin. We currently meet twice a month and it has been going great. He has shown me how to read the various hotel reports that a General Manager has to go through daily/weekly/monthly, such as the STR report. At one session I was able to accompany him on housekeeping room inspections. At another session, I was able to attend the AHLA Luncheon at The Four Seasons Hotel with the Doubletree team. Mr. Bolash is planning to teach me more about the housekeeping operations and also about financial reports, as those are two of the subjects I am taking this semester and with which he has a lot of experience.”

The program was initiated by Mr. Bolash, who also currently serves as a member of the Hospitality Program Advisory Board. Mr. Bolash is the Director of Education for AH&LA and worked with Michelle Fitzpatrick, the Department Chair for the Hospitality Management, Meeting & Event Planning and Travel & Tourism department to implement the ACC program. The program runs annually, from October to May. Students apply to the program must have a 3.0 GPA and submit an application, an essay, and go through a personal interview process.

The department is delighted to offer this mentor program for our students and recognize the benefits of strong local industry support.