The Penn State School of Hospitality Management welcomed two national leaders in the hospitality industry as spring 2015 Walter J. Conti visiting professors.
Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, visited the school Feb. 9 and 10 to interact with students and faculty members. The School recognized Lugar and Sweeney during a reception and industry presentation, “Critical issues in hospitality,” Feb. 9 at the Nittany Lion Inn on the Penn State campus.
“As these two associations will represent the interests of and provide services to most of our students after they graduate from Penn State, it's vital for our students to become familiar with them and their activities while here at Penn State,” says John O’Neill, director of the School of Hospitality Management. “Through these associations, our students will have the opportunity to become leaders who will shape the course of the hospitality industry for years to come.”
Sweeney and Lugar interacted with students over multiple days through classroom presentations and roundtable discussions offering students career advice.
Sweeney outlined key qualities the restaurant industry is seeking in new managers, such as the ability to work at a macro level while also paying attention to details, passion for excellent service, and eagerness to continually learn. Critical skills, she said, include interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, leadership, and compassion.
Kara Zukowski, a senior studying hospitality management, hopes to work in the restaurant industry. Zukowski appreciated hearing Sweeney’s story, in part, because Sweeney has a unique career path, which started with the International Dairy Foods Association.
“I also liked how empowering her position is for women because she’s the first female CEO of the National Restaurant Association,” Zukowski said.
In her advice to students, Lugar highlighted the importance of having mentors, listening, and possessing a strong work ethic. Mentoring students, she said, has been one of the most rewarding parts of her career.
“Go to people who are established in every segment of the industry,” Lugar says. “Any good leader is going to want to mentor young people.”