Unmatched Active Learning Opportunities to Round Out Your Cornell Nolan School Experience

Put Your Learning into Practice with Experiential Learning

Great hospitality professionals learn by doing, which is why we’ve incorporated practice into our student experience since our founding. At the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration, we offer a wide range of opportunities for hands-on experiential learning to help develop your strategic thinking and big-picture vision, gain poise and confidence, and exercise your passion for delighting customers and clients.

What Is Experiential Learning in Hospitality?

Experiential learning is a type of engaged, hands-on practical learning in which you learn by doing, as opposed to listening to lectures and reading textbooks. We feel that the best way to gain knowledge, proficiency, and skills is through a combination of traditional classroom and experiential modes of learning, which is why your Nolan School experience is deliberately designed to include both.

What Are the Benefits of Experiential Learning in the Nolan School?

As the old saying goes, experience is the best teacher. The importance of experiential learning is that you apply your classroom learning in a real-world setting, you make real-time decisions, take the initiative, accrue accountability for your actions, and engage your intellect, creativity, critical thinking, and innovation to achieve results. Faced with a real business situation, you immediately apply your knowledge, receive instant feedback, learn to work with team members, and develop solid practice habits.

What Are Some Examples of Experiential Learning in the Hotel Administration Industry?

At the Nolan School, the majority of our experiential learning opportunities require you to engage with real customers and deliver real results. For example, if you participate in Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC), you’ll have the responsibility of organizing an industry conference and providing all the requisite services — from entertainment and food and beverage to marketing and sales. You can serve Cornell community members and the general public at Establishment, our on-campus restaurant, or work at the luxury Statler Hotel through the Hotel Leadership Development Program (HLDP). These are just a few of the amazing experiences you can expect at the Nolan School.

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Hotel Administration Experiential Learning Programs

The Cornell Nolan School’s signature programs — Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC), Hotel Leadership Development Program (HLDP), Establishment (Estb.), Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Alliance, and the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS) — let you apply your learning in live settings, with paying guests and professional staff.

Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC): Plan and Run a Professional Conference

A self-perpetuating entity of the Nolan School, we strive to take what we learn in class and put it into practice. Since 1925, Nolan School students have organized and operated HEC, a three-day weekend-long industry conference with speakers, entertainment, and food service. This is a wonderful venue to practice your skills — including marketing, IT, and sales — and showcase your talents to influential attendees, including Cornell alumni, faculty, and staff, as well as industry professionals from around the world. Students hold leadership positions as managers and volunteers to earn practice credit, and student board members receive academic elective credit for participating. Discover more information on HEC here including past program themes. Contact hec@cornell.edu with donor interests.

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Hotel Leadership Development Program (HLDP)

Based in Cornell’s award-winning luxury Statler Hotel, our comprehensive hotel leadership development program exposes you to the full range of hotel operations and on-the-job mentorship from top practitioners, while concurrently fulfilling your regular coursework. To apply to HLDP, you need to have worked in one of the Statler Hotel operations departments for at least one semester. You progress through multiple levels of leadership training, from entry level, to management, through student director. Students who reach the top level, Statler Fellow, are ready to be promoted to management positions in the Statler Hotel.

Each level involves about 200–300 hours of paid work and comes with a certification. You’ll follow a self-directed path, guided by a mentor from the Statler Hotel’s management team.

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Highlights of HLDP

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Introductory Course

In the first fall semester of HLDP, you’ll take HADM 2170, a required one-credit course taught by Nolan School faculty and Statler Hotel management staff that complements core Nolan School coursework while enhancing essential supervisory skills.

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After completing HADM 2170, you’ll delve into HADM 4100 – Hospitality Management Seminar and HADM 4170 – Hospitality Leadership, noncredit management-training sessions facilitated by Statler Hotel management staff and industry guest speakers, to build your knowledge of applied management topics.

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Industry Trip for Statler Fellows

Students who reach this top HLDP level can participate in these five-day industry experiences that take place over winter break. Previous trips include Dallas, Orlando, and Los Angeles.


The Statler Hotel: The Ultimate Training Ground

A top-of-the-line luxury dining and lodging establishment, the Statler Hotel is also the premier facility for teaching hospitality. The area’s only AAA Four Diamond designated property, it offers superlative service for customers and an unparalleled learning experience. More than 200 Nolan School students work with experienced hospitality professionals, learning everything from reservations and housekeeping to sales and marketing. The Statler Hotel offers you wonderful experiential opportunities right on campus, from weddings, business meetings and conferences, and catered special events, to the Statler’s own on-premises restaurants: upscale-casual fine dining at Taverna Banfi, the lavishly modern Regent Lounge, and the eclectic and international Terrace Restaurant.


Establishment at Statler: Nourish Your Learning While Pleasing Customers

This student-run, refined casual restaurant, open to the public, is a classroom first and an eatery second. Opened in 2012, Establishment at Statler is where you synthesize your knowledge and skills in food and beverage preparation, business principles, hospitality management, and customer service. This for-credit experiential learning opportunity is staffed and operated by students in the HADM 3350 – Restaurant Management course during the academic semester. You’ll prepare with two weeks of focused training, then join the Establishment staff to provide patrons with an enticing array of dishes while anticipating their wants and delighting them with superior service.

The menu at Establishment has been engineered to reinforce students’ knowledge of various cooking methods as well as increase their experience working with an array of food-production tools and equipment, while simultaneously providing guests with an eclectic mix of dishes inspired by a variety of different cuisines.

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Nolan School-Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Alliance: Incredible Learning Experience from Two Industry Experts

Learn from two world-class service organizations in this powerful partnership. Choose your level of learning — from short courses to a dual degree — from three different experiential learning opportunities:

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Highlights of the Nolan School-CIA Partnership

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Three-Week Intensive Immersion

This introduction to culinary fundamentals gives you an applied understanding of food, whether you aspire to work in operations, nutrition, policy, or agriculture. The course includes cooking methods, commercial equipment, flavor profiling, and basic menu planning. Dates change annually.

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Plunge into food production and prepare for ProChef Level 1 certification as you build core competencies, explore specialties, and discover world cuisines. Or specialize in baking and pastry arts as you gain fundamental baking and pastry knowledge, train on industrial equipment, and learn design techniques. The program runs from January through April.

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Earn the prestigious CIA associate’s degree in either Culinary Arts or Baking and Pastry Arts while earning your Nolan School bachelor’s degree in hotel administration, all in four and a half years. You’ll spend two semesters at CIA (January–early August) and return to the Cornell campus to complete your Nolan School degree. Students in the Baking and Pastry program return to CIA for an additional semester, typically after finishing their Cornell requirements.

To apply, contact the program coordinator at cia_alliance@sha.cornell.edu.

Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS): Hospitality Leaders Share Their Paths to Success

Since 1928, the DDLS has been bringing dozens of leaders from every segment of hospitality to share their insights on business trends, strategies and management styles, career paths, and the state of the industry. Distinguished Lectures in Hospitality Management (HADM) is a one-credit, ungraded course that fulfills free HADM electives. Open to the public, this Friday afternoon lecture can be attended in person or online and attracts a wide range of influential hospitality professionals — both as speakers and in the audience. DDLS is a timeless experiential learning opportunity fostering small, engaged, student-speaker interactions in an active-learning environment. It’s a great networking opportunity, as well!

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Additional Academic Opportunities

In addition to Signature Programs, we offer studying abroad, research opportunities, and special studies projects — more excellent ways to tap into your interests and prepare for a rewarding career in the business of hospitality.


Study Abroad: Enhance Your Cultural Learning and Global Outlook

Learn from experience, deepen your cultural understanding of the world, and broaden your global horizons while earning credit. Take advantage of Cornell’s massive reach and choose from more than 150 programs in over 40 countries through Cornell’s Office of Global Learning. To qualify, you must complete all 1000- and 2000-level coursework and maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0. The study-abroad option is usually taken in the junior or senior year, over a semester or academic year. Students who wish to study abroad but cannot do it during the regular academic term can integrate an international experience during the summer or January term while completing coursework or an internship abroad — since these options are not managed by the Office of Global Learning, the student is responsible for applying directly to the program.


Undergraduate Research: Contribute to Leading-Edge Industry Knowledge and Practice

Renowned for cutting-edge industry research, the Nolan School is the perfect place to explore critical issues facing the hospitality industry. As a Nolan School student, you can participate in a special active-learning research project under the direction of a Nolan School faculty member or through programs at other Cornell units — and perhaps even see your work published in Center for Hospitality Research publications. In addition, exceptionally motivated students can receive financial support for faculty-mentored research through the Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars Program (RCPRS).


Special Studies: The Freedom to Explore Your Own Passions

Have a special area of interest that’s not addressed by one of our other programs? Consider a customized project in any Nolan School academic area, with one-on-one guidance by a Nolan School faculty member provided through frequent, regular consultations. Credits are arranged on an individual basis, and no more than six special-studies credits can count toward degree requirements. Visit the HADM 4990 and HADM 4980 experiential learning special studies descriptions for more information and, if interested, review the project application form.

Other Elements of the Nolan School Learning Experience

The experiential learning opportunities highlighted above complement the three other Nolan School elements listed below. In addition to those active-learning opportunities, students can select a minor and/or concentration, enroll in electives beyond the core curriculum, and meet with academic advising to ensure they’re getting the most out of their collegiate career.

Minors and Specializations at the Nolan School: Areas of Focus for Your Studies

Providing a defined pathway to explore your area of interest, either within or outside your major, minors and specializations give you a rich array of ways to explore your academic and career interests. Learn more about these opportunities, which are offered both by the Nolan School and by other Cornell units.


Nolan School Courses: The Backbone of Your Hospitality Education

Forming the basis of your academic learning experience, the Nolan School’s core coursework and elective offerings provide foundational knowledge. From real estate, to food and beverage management, to finance, these classroom experiences help you learn theoretical frameworks, develop critical-thinking skills, and gain essential capabilities to shine in the business world.


Academic Advising: Essential Guidance for Your Learning and Professional Outlook

At the Nolan School, we provide you with comprehensive academic and career guidance. During your time with us, you’ll receive expert assistance from both faculty and professional career advisors for everything from choosing coursework and concentrations, accessing support for disabilities or academic remediation, and finding research and networking resources.


Find Out More about Experiential Learning Opportunities at the Nolan School

Want to learn more about the many ways you can put your knowledge into practice, hone your skills, and enhance your career outlook?


What Our Students Say About Experiential Learning

Hear from Nolan School students about what the experiential learning options mean to them and how it bolstered their experience as Hotelies.

Caleb Trieu ’23

The Nolan School
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Biography for Caleb Trieu ’23

“The unique experiences that SHA [Nolan School] provides make the program so memorable. Because of SHA [Nolan School], I have had opportunities that I wouldn't be able to get elsewhere, such as visiting Air Canada's headquarters in Canada and speaking with CEOs of prominent hospitality companies. These priceless moments make the college experience so enriching and fulfilling.” - Caleb Trieu ’23, participated in HEC and DDLS

Kassie Henderson ’22

The Nolan School
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Biography for Kassie Henderson ’22

“The most memorable aspect of SHA [Nolan School] so far for me was DDLS. Each Friday you go into class and listen to an alumni of the school talk about their career path and how they got to the position they are in today. It was a very motivating experience to hear from those people.” - Kassie Henderson ’22, participated in HEC and DDLS

Kyra Roach ’22

The Nolan School
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Biography for Kyra Roach ’22

“[HEC] is one of the longest-standing traditions at SHA [Nolan School], and I think every Hotelie should try it at least once. Not only do you get to try out different functions within the hospitality industry and meet lots of other Hotelie students, but the conference is one of the best ways to meet Hotelie alum. Everyone has an HEC story — you should too!” - Kyra Roach ’22, participated in HEC, HLDP, Establishment, and DDLS

Jenniviv Bansah ’22

The Nolan School
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Biography for Jenniviv Bansah ’22

“The Career Center in SHA [Nolan School] organizes trips to San Francisco, New York City, and Washington, D.C., to visit companies in the financial, hospitality, and tech industries. Hence, it's a great way to explore different industries and immerse yourself in a company's culture for a day!” - Jenniviv Bansah ’22, participated in Establishment, DDLS, and Special Studies Projects

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