NSMH chapter networks with professionals, alumni, and peers at national conference

By Briana Gaskin '15, edited by Stacy Delapenha '14

For Cornell University students, spending Thursday to Sunday off campus can be hard. They worry about whether or not they’ll be able to complete their work. They are concerned about the TA hours and review sessions they are missing. They ask themselves if this weekend away from Ithaca is worth it.

At five o’ clock in the morning on February 16, members of the Cornell chapter of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH) boarded a bus and began the long journey to Washington D.C. to participate in the 23rd annual national NSMH conference. The theme of this year’s conference was "iDream, iLearn, iAm." Throughout the opening ceremony, members of the national board, two of whom are Cornell sophomores, emphasized the theme and the message it was meant to convey to the hundreds of students in attendance.

Over the course of the weekend, students attended various workshops on a range of topics, including how to get internships as a freshman, what to do in difficult HR situations, the future of food and beverage, and many others subjects that helped NSMH members develop academically and professionally. There was a workshop for every student, no matter what aspect of the hospitality industry he or she was interested in.

If anything, I found I had the hardest time choosing which workshops to attend. In each workshop, professionals from companies such as Aramark, Starwood, Kimpton, and many others answered questions from NSMH members. There wasn’t one workshop that didn’t send participants away with new ideas and perspectives.

The main event of the conference—the much anticipated NSMH Career Fair—occurred on Saturday. Representatives from the regular industry giants were there as well as representatives from smaller companies. Everyone was vying for an interview slot, whether it was for careers after graduation or for opportunities for internships in the hospitality industry. As I sat in the interview waiting area, there was always another Hotelie waiting for an interview as well.

In between the Career Fair and interviews, members of Cornell’s NSMH chapter went to lunch with alumni in the D.C. area. There was at least one alumnus at every table, and over the course of the lunch students got to network and ask questions.

Perhaps even more important than networking with alumni was the networking we did with our peers. Nationwide, NSMH has over a hundred chapters and over a thousand members who are dedicated to the same mission: to increase diversity in the work place and advance the recruitment and retention of minorities in the hospitality industry. I know I was not the only one who made friends that I will keep in contact with in the years to come. We all know the benefit of networking with employers, but it is also beneficial to network with our potential future coworkers as well.

Overall, the weekend was a success and the members of NSMH had a wonderful weekend full of career development activities. Two members from the Cornell chapter, Stacy Delepenha '14 and Nichole Wiggins '14, were elected to serve on the national board as programs director and secretary, respectively. In addition, four of our members went home with scholarships from hospitality companies. But the real icing on the cake was that our president, Jackie Perkins '12, was selected as the President of the Year for the entire organization.

We got on the bus early on Sunday to return to Ithaca. Without question, each member knew the weekend away from Ithaca had been well worth it.