Heather Fortenberry, associate director of admissions, Office of Student Services and Admissions, School of Hotel Administration.
Heather and the admissions team help coordinate many of the school’s Cornell Days events.
Cornell Days is an annual program that invites accepted applicants and their families to visit campus, explore, and learn about Cornell. Over a period of two weeks in the spring, the university and its divisions host prospective students for information sessions, tours, and class visits.
It’s a very busy time for SHA’s Office of Student Services and Admissions as they pull out all the stops to make guests feel welcome and help them get the most from their visits. Heather Fortenberry, SHA associate director of admissions, moderated a series of panel discussions. Students, staff, and faculty shared insights and took questions.
The April 20 panel featured Professor Ben Lawrence ’97, associate director of student services Shawn Meyer, and current students Caitlin Arens ’15, Ari Cohen ’17, Francesco Jimenez ’15, and Stephanie Peltz ’17.
Focus on teaching; focus on career
As an alumnus himself, Ben underscored SHA’s emphasis on teaching. “Cornell is a research institution, and SHA faculty are expected to produce research,” he explained. “But our faculty tend to be more engaged with students because we place so much emphasis on teaching.”
“We are a very career-focused school,” Heather said. “There’s a lot of support. We actively engage students from freshman year on, through resume building, mock interviewing, and guided internship and job searches.”
Reflecting the intertwining of academics and career planning, the school’s Career Management team is part of the Office of Student Services and Admissions. “Our office is an integrated office,” said Shawn. “All of us are at least somewhat involved with career planning and advice.”
One audience member’s curiosity was piqued when Stephanie discussed her focus in finance. He asked whether she planned to go into the finance side of a hospitality company, or into something more like investment banking or Wall Street. Stephanie, a sophomore, quite honestly hasn’t decided yet, but that’s part of the flexibility built into the program.
That Stephanie has the choice at all may come as a surprise to those expecting a traditional hotel operations program, but SHA is far more than that: it’s a business program grounded in hospitality, the world’s largest industry. There are good reasons why SHA is the only stand-alone hospitality school in the world to have earned accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
Ben expanded on this: “In terms of career prospects, an MBA doesn’t really give you anything the SHA bachelor’s degree doesn’t. It’s not like students who graduate from liberal arts programs and then find they need the MBA to get the skillsets to succeed in business. Our students graduate with those credentials, and any student with the motivation is going to graduate from SHA and be able to find a decent job.”
You’re here. Now what?
For those who earn a place here, there’s no secret ingredient to succeeding at SHA and Cornell. The panelists acknowledged that college is a major transition, but offered simple, pragmatic advice. “Get enough sleep, come to class, and engage with your faculty,” said Ben. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” added Shawn. The students talked about learning to balance their commitments and figuring out which approaches to learning work best for them.
Ultimately, SHA students graduate into the Hotelie network, an invaluable global resource through which Hotelies build their careers and stay connected to the school. Students can seek out the advice of accomplished alumni, and those alumni know firsthand the caliber of the education the students have received.