Hospitality Bridge Program Creates Leaders in One of the World’s Largest Industries

By Dr. Berkita Bradford, Chair, VSU Hospitality Management Department

The Hospitality Management (HMGT ) department at VSU recently hosted eight female high school students in the department’s 2017 Hyatt Summer Bridge program. The purpose of the program is to introduce high school rising juniors and seniors to the hospitality industry, university living and the Hyatt brand. This was the first time in VSU’s history of participating that there was an all-female camp. Participates experienced residential living and were housed in on campus in Gateway II.

The students were given a tour of VSU’s Multi-Purpose Center by General Manager, Victory Landry. They were given a tour of Randolph Farm by Christopher Mullins. The students were introduced to culinary tourism by participating in a culinary food tour in Richmond with River City Food tours. They experienced Asian-Mexican fusion and Hawaiian cuisines. They also visited a natural bakery and a specialty food market.

The students were also given a “behind the scenes” tour of Kings Dominion. While touring Kings Dominion they met the Executive Chef and Director and the HMGT Department’s Advisory Board Member, Raquel Goodson.

The students were also treated to an overnight stay in our nation’s capital. They took an Amtrak ride to Union Station in Washington D.C. after which they were given an exclusive back of the house tour of the Hyatt Regency hotel by members of the management team.

The Hyatt Regency is about a 10-minute walk from the capital, so the students walked over for a photo op in front of the capital. They were also treated to a meal at the family-owned and famous Ben’s Chili Bowl. While dining at Ben’s one of the owners, Sonya Ali, greeted the students and provided a historical timeline of the family business.

Students were treated to culinary classes facilitated by Xavier McGhee. Xavier is a December 2016 graduate of VSU’s HMGT program and is known throughout the culinary world as Chef X.

In an effort to tie in the farm-to-table concept, VSU’s Cooperative Extension Culinary Project Director, Wanda Johnson, assisted the students with preparing a nutritious salad with fruits and vegetables from VSU’s Randolph Farm. She also spoke to them on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables.

Participates were required to make an oral presentation and write a reflection paper on their experiences.

Bridge participants Elon Hairston and Felicía Bronaugh expressed they had no idea the hospitality industry was so large and complex. Both young ladies indicated they had an enjoyable time and, although they aren’t yet committed to the hospitality industry, they have a newly found respect and interest for it. They also expressed they will be starting a new workout plan after all the eating they did this past week.

Participant Semiah Jones from Philadelphia expressed she plans to enroll at VSU in the fall of 2018 and major in hospitality management while minoring in finance.

VSUs hospitality management department has hosted summer bridge students for the more than six years. Historically the VSU-Hyatt Summer Bridge program has been effective in recruiting students to VSU that studied hospitality, graduated, and secured employment within the global hospitality industry. The Hyatt Summer Bridge program is 100-percent funded by Hyatt hotels.