By Matt Hawkins
July 11, 2014
As an intern for Peoria’s Courtyard by Marriott hotel, Elizabeth Hays ’15 discovered hotel management required a big toolbox of skills. She tried her hand at employee relations and honed customer service skills while helping to manage the hotel’s front desk and Bistro.
Front desk duties put the hospitality leadership major in the center of operations as she worked with customers, processed and organized documents, plus she assisted with employee supervisory duties. That meant designing employee schedules, checking rooms after cleaning and observing prospective employee interviews.
“This internship puts a smile on my face,” Hays said. “Even when I’m not in the mood to work, something fun or exciting happens every day.”
Hays also experienced the technical aspect of management, which meant becoming a jack-of-all-trades on computers and equipment operation. She mastered multiple software systems, learned how to take inventory and operated vending machines and restaurant equipment.
“This is such a unique experience because I’ve seen a new side of management that isn’t taught in class,” she said. “I don't think any other internship would have allowed for me to do all that. This definitely caused me to be more interested in pursuing hotel management.”
The summer management immersion also shed new light on Hays’ culinary interests.
“When I saw this internship had a little bit of food and a ton of other great opportunities for me, I jumped at it,” she said.
Of all the duties, though, customer service brought out the best in her others-focused personality.
“It’s most gratifying when I get a compliment, smile or thank you,” Hays said. “I live to make other people happy, and it makes my day knowing I helped make someone else’s day easier.”
The hospitality leadership program prepares students for hospitality industry careers such as hotels, resorts, casinos, food service operations and tourism. Students complete a 640-hour internship and minor in management, marketing or professional sales. Students also study abroad one semester or complete the Global Scholars program.