Southeast Hospitality Management Students Earn Honorable Mention in First Showing at HX: Hotel Experience

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Southeast hospitality management students and faculty, from left: Andrew Jacob, Hannah Gordon, Brynn Jennings, Chance Ziegler, Breonna P. Grant, Dr. Nick Johnston, Tori Giesing, Chef Lisa Essmyer and Brianna A. Mitchell during their trip to New York City for the HX: Hotel Experience 2018 Convention.

Seven Southeast Missouri State University hospitality management majors recently participated in the HX: Hotel Experience 2018 Convention in New York City attending educational sessions, networking with hotel industry professionals and touring the iconic Knickerbocker Hotel.

Three of the students competed in the Smith Travel Research (STR) Market Study Competition and earned honorable mention in the undergraduate category.

Victoria “Tori” Giesing, a senior from Eureka, Missouri, Hannah Gordon, a junior from Englewood, Colorado, and Chance Ziegler, a senior from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, formed the first team to represent Southeast in the competition, which included 39 teams from hospitality programs from around the world. The Southeast team developed a market analysis of the St. Louis lodging market based on current industry data provided by STR and additional research collected by the students. At the conference, they delivered a 20-minute presentation on their findings to a panel that consisted of industry professionals and an audience. The judges then asked the team questions and provided feedback. The team won Honorable Mention in the undergraduate category.

Also participating in the convention were Andrew Jacob, a senior from Urbana, Illinois; Brynn Jennings, a  junior from Carbondale, Illinois; Breonna P. Grant, a senior from Poplar Bluff, Missouri; and Brianna A. Mitchell, a sophomore from Naperville, Illinois. Accompanying the students to the conference were Dr. Nick Johnston, assistant professor of hospitality management, and Chef Lisa Essmyer, instructor of hospitality management.

“In the field of hospitality management education, especially in higher education, there are very few opportunities for students to showcase their talents and compete on such a level,” Johnston said. “My goal was to give our students an opportunity to showcase their talents as well as highlight our hospitality program at Southeast, and I believe we succeeded.”

The data the students analyzed to find trends and patterns about the past, present and future of the St. Louis lodging market is the same type of data used by developers, owners and general managers for benchmarking and evaluating the performance of lodging locations.

Southeast student team members, from left, are  Chance Ziegler, Hannah Gordon and Tori Geising, with Dr. Nick Johnston, Southeast assistant professor of hospitality management, as they celebrate their honorable mention award in the STR Market Study Competition undergraduate category.

In 2017, Johnston applied and received a Southeast Funding for Results grant to gain access to STR reports for use in classes. He also earned his certification in hotel industry analytics (CHIA) and used this training to teach students how to interpret the data and prepare market analysis reports.

The convention presented the students the opportunity to experience what they have discussed in classes. They attended sessions hosted by industry leaders on topics such as current and future trends, green initiatives and hospitality career planning. They also interacted with vendors and suppliers as well as other attendees and witnessed the complexity of managing such an event.

“The HX convention is an eye-opening experience for anyone involved in hospitality, especially students,” Johnston said.

The students were also treated to a tour of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Times Square, a five-star luxury property. The tour was guided by the hotel’s general manager and made possible with the help of Southeast alumnus Tom Hendrick, a 1968 graduate.

Johnston said the experience allowed the students to gain a greater appreciation for the hospitality industry by networking with professionals and seeing firsthand best practices and trends for the industry.

“Overall, I believe the students learned more about their chosen major, industry, and themselves,” he said.