Southeast Student Serving up Hospitality at MGM Resort

Southeast Missouri State University senior Heather Keesee says being a Libra – a natural people pleaser – makes hospitality management a great career fit for her.

A Scott City, Missouri, native, Keesee is interning this summer at the Beau Rivage MGM Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi, where she is shadowing management in hopes of launching a career in the industry.

“It is so nice to see how happy guests are and knowing that you are part of making their experience better is a great feeling,” Keesee said.

Interns are on rotations to learn about various aspects of the business. Her first four weeks at Beau Rivage have been in the beverage rotation, following the director of beverages, who has taught her how to run the casino floor service bars, schedule cocktail servers, run a piano bar in the casino and make direct liquor orders.

“Following someone who is so high up in management is amazing because I get to see how the company is run and sit in on important meetings,” she said. “This also helps me see how the company makes decisions and the future for the company.”

As an intern, she participates in Resort Knowledge Days where she is learning about the responsibilities of each company’s departments and all of MGM’s properties.

“The company truly cares about the brand and wants each employee to know about the various locations,” she said.

At her first Resort Knowledge Day, she learned about hotel operations and met the vice president of hotel operations and food and beverage. She also got insights on VIP services, front services and housekeeping.

“It is important the employees know the different departments throughout the operation because MGM is very big on collaboration,” Keesee said. “Knowing each department teaches us how they all work together.”

Keesee calls the Beau Rivage “a beautiful property” with the feel of a Las Vegas venue. The property features 1,740 guest rooms and 11 food outlets ranging from fine dining to an ice cream parlor. It also offers gaming, bars, a theatre, room service, live bands and a dueling piano show, a summer circus-type show and shopping outlets.

She already has learned a lot about MGM Resorts and the value of networking.

“I also learned that working in the hospitality industry is very time consuming but also very rewarding,” she said.

“The networking opportunities that are given to the interns is amazing. We are able to sit in on executive meetings, talk to everyone in the Employee Dining Room, be introduced to everyone, and shadow different departments,” Keesee said.

Because of the importance MGM Resorts places on networking, interns are given the opportunity to shadow top-level executives if they find their position interesting. On her shadowing day, though, she plans to observe the manager of catering and banquets because she wants to better understand how this large operation works.

She said she hopes to take away from this experience a new style of management. While she previously had worked for a family-owned restaurant, the internship has allowed her to explore management on a higher scale.

Keesee became interested in pursuing an internship with MGM Resorts after recently visiting the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. After applying and a series of interviews, she landed the summer opportunity where she said she is “loving it so far.”

She’s come a long way in her educational journey at Southeast. Going into college, she says she knew nothing about hospitality management.

“I sat down with an advisor when I was struggling with school, and she asked what I was passionate about,” Keesee said. “I told her that I loved being a waitress, but I knew I could not do that my whole life. That is when I was introduced to hospitality management.”

Although she is eight and a half hours from home this summer, she is enjoying all the opportunity is affording her.

“The coast is a beautiful place. The people here are so genuine and welcoming, not to mention I only live an hour and a half from the beach. On my off days, I get in my car and head to Pensacola or Orange Beach to enjoy the white sand and blue water,” she said.

Biloxi also has a number of museums, art galleries and casinos to explore.

“Something that I enjoy doing here after work is watching baseball,” she said. “MGM owns a ballpark, MGM Park, right across from Beau Rivage, where the Biloxi Shuckers – part of the Milwaukee Brewers organization — play.

When Keesee finishes her internship this summer, she will complete here Southeast degree in hospitality management with a minor in human resources.

“My long-term goal is to get a job with MGM Resorts International, whether it be at the Beau Rivage or at a different location,” she said. “My internship has truly made me fall in love with this company and I can see myself furthering my career with them. I am hoping that a management position becomes available at Beau Rivage because I love the work environment here, and I love living on the coast. If a management position does not open up, I will see what other jobs they have to offer that I could work my  way into management.

“If all else fails, I have my foot in the door with MGM and could be transferred to another location,” she said. “I am so excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to see where my future takes me!”