Semester grades and exams weren’t the primary focus of professor Finley Cotrone’s Hotel Operations & Management and professor Tony Henthorne’s Marketing 2019 fall semester classes. Student success hinged on producing deliverables for two out-of-state companies developing innovative tourist destinations.
In both cases, the companies wanted to draw from the students’ raw, objective talent and eagerness for results. These college/industry collaborations underscore how students can add value to actual industry projects while giving their résumés a major boost.
Project: Mineral Springs Resort
Location: Gonzales County, Texas
Instructor: Finley Cotrone
Partner: Jim Mikula, ’78 BS Hotel Administration
Alumnus Jim Mikula is part of a development team that is transforming a hospital in rural Texas into an artisanal hot springs resort. Built in the 1940s as a sanctuary for polio patients, the hospital and adjoining hot springs served as a center for healing and wellness for nearly 65 years.
To help set the project up for success, Mikula enlisted the help of professor Finley Cotrone’s class to research spa/hot springs trends and develop operating and service standards for the property. Additionally, students brainstormed ways to incorporate artificial intelligence and other technologies to help property management alleviate labor shortages. In early December 2019, students presented Mikula with their results.
- Missions, visions, value statements
- Operations and service standards
- Formal presentation
Effective communication in a task force; translating research into an action plan; strategic thinking
Participants say ...
“I asked the students to help me get the property started on the right foot. They were not just students to me; they were my task force. They played a critical role in developing this resort.” — Jim Mikula, Mineral Springs Resort development team
“This project taught us to start with big ideas and not to limit ourselves. It’s important for students to participate in real projects because we need to practice implementing concepts we learn in class. Many students finish college with great knowledge but don’t know how it applies in a real workplace setting.” — Sonia Vazquez-Quintero, senior in hotel operations & management course
Project: WindMark Beach-Downtown Project
Location: Northwest Florida Coast
Instructor: Tony Henthorne
Partner: The St. Joe Company
When Hospitality College professor Tony Henthorne approached real estate company St. Joe about its WindMark Beach project — one of the company’s high-end Florida beach communities — the company embraced the idea of having Henthorne’s graduate-level class develop a marketing strategy for the community’s downtown area. The plan would identify ways to attract new businesses and customers — helping to mitigate the effects of the 2008 economic crash, which stalled growth in the area, particularly in terms of amenities, such as shops and restaurants.
Early in the 2019 fall semester, St. Joe senior marketing manager Lanier Motes visited Las Vegas to share intricacies of the project with the class; and in October, the company sponsored a trip for students to visit the WindMark community in Florida. In December 2019, company executives came back to campus for formal presentations by the class.
- Marketing plan
- Formal presentation to company executives
Understanding of market research; consumer behavior; promotion strategies; market segmentation; effective communication
Participants say ...
“The WindMark Beach community was built in a different part of the region, and the type of marketing required is completely different from our other communities. I think that students from another part of the country can see the area in a whole new way. We’re excited to see a fresh perspective.” — Lanier Motes, St. Joe senior marketing manager
“Real projects like WindMark have moving parts that respond to the business environment in real time. With this project, we got to examine actual data and have live clients we can direct questions to. With imagined projects we often overlook challenges, which limits our learning potential.” — Menh Diep, graduate student in marketing services course