SHA Students Gain Practical Entrepreneurial Experience through Harlem Hospitality Project

Students in the Hospitality Industry Practicum at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration are putting their academic skills to work in the real world by helping plan the Harlem Hospitality Project (HHP), a venture designed to provide educational opportunities to students in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City through both an academic curriculum and a working hotel.

The five students collaborating on the project are charged with forming a plan for HHP’s academic program, preparing a strategic marketing plan, and evaluating the viability of the hotel through a feasibility study. The Hospitality Industry Practicum—a multidisciplinary course that fosters skills in entrepreneurship, innovation, and project management—is sponsored by the Hospitality Innovation Program in the school’s Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship. Amy Newman, lecturer, and Kate Walsh, associate professor, are co-facilitating the project.

“We’re thrilled to be working with HHP,” said Newman and Walsh. “Not only is this a chance for our students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom, it is also a wonderful opportunity for them to make a difference in a community and in the hospitality industry.”

HHP is the vision of Duke Fergerson, a football coach and advocate for Harlem youth. Through the program, graduates would earn an associate’s degree in the field of hospitality and culinary arts, and possibly continue onto four-year hospitality programs. The mission of HHP is to educate students and provide them with skills they can use to earn a living wage and, ultimately, travel the path of economic self-sustainability.

To assist with the development and execution of the project, Fergerson has engaged the Roberts Hotel Group (RHG), the largest African-American owned and managed real estate development company in the United States.

"We see this as a great opportunity to continue to foster a relationship with School of Hotel Administration while creating and managing a landmark hospitality facility," said Steve Roberts, president and principal of RHG.

The students are using their findings to develop a report, which they will present to the HHP development team at the end of the current semester.