Denny’s announced a partnership with Oakwood University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Huntsville, AL, and Bay Path University in Longmeadow, MA, marking a significant advancement in its GAIN Program. This collaboration aims to bridge gaps in access to skills training, explore diverse learning avenues, and unlock non-traditional pathways for career growth. 

The initiative integrates Denny’s Manager-In-Training (MIT) program with specific courses, enabling participants to earn up to 30 college credits. The MIT program, which requires 500 hours of practical training, is now aligned with university coursework in business and hospitality like Principles of Management, Food Systems Management, Business Communication, and Leadership and Organizational Change.

“This university partnership enriches career development opportunities for our team members,” says Denny’s president and CEO Kelli Valade. “The ability to become a smarter, stronger team member, enabled by these kinds of programs, is central to our brand purpose. When employees thrive, they can grow in other areas, build their families, and create a legacy.” 

Dr. Kim Cliett Long, award-winning author and higher education consultant, has been instrumental in developing Denny’s GAIN educational initiatives. A former board member of the Online Learning Consortium, a national collaborative community of higher education leaders and innovators dedicated to advancing quality digital teaching and learning, Dr. Long is a sought-after speaker and thought leader on innovation in academic affairs and administration. She works closely with both Denny’s and its university partners to align the company’s internal training programs with academic curricula. Her expertise ensures that Denny’s team members gain access to education that is both relevant to their professional roles and recognized for academic credit. 

“Our GAIN program is not just an educational initiative; it’s part of our people-forward belief system,” adds Fasika Melaku, senior vice president of human resources and chief learning officer at Denny’s. “It nurtures the personal and professional development of our team. Our commitment to people’s growth is at the heart of our brand, empowering them to advance in their careers while making a generational impact.” 

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