TAMPA – The University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business is teaming up with Aramark, the on-campus food service and catering stalwart, and Mainsail Lodging and Development, a specialist in the tourism lodging sector, to provide student fellowships to give up to 130 USF hospitality students valuable paid on-the-job professional experience.
The eight-year agreement with Aramark provides paid fellowships for graduate students in the USF hospitality program. The opportunity allows up to 10 fellowships each year. In addition, Aramark is directing part of the company’s annual contribution to USF to the School of Hospitality and Management.
The five-year agreement with Mainsail Lodging and Development provides 10 student fellowships each year. The total value of the partnerships with Aramark and Mainsail is $3.6 million.
Lynn Pippenger Dean Moez Limayem said the new affiliations give hospitality students first-hand experience in hospitality management at some of the largest hotel brands and in the food service industry.
“The hospitality industry is truly a resilient industry,” he said. “We’re here today to really celebrate an incredible partnership. The biggest winners out of these partnerships are our students.”
The two new partnerships were announced at a Tuesday signing agreement ceremony. About 75 people, which included university leaders, hospitality industry managers, and students attended the hour-long event.
The collaboration comes on the heels of USF’s ground-breaking partnership with McKibbon Hospitality, announced in November 2021, that creates hotel learning labs where students can shadow hotel industry professionals to gain invaluable on-the-job experience.
McKibbon Hospitality manages nearly 100 hotels and over 10,000 guest rooms in over 40 markets for some of the world’s largest hotel brands, such as Hilton, Hyatt, and IHG.
Karen Holbook, the regional chancellor of USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus, noted that interest in the hospitality program is on an upward trend. In fact, enrollment has increased 95% for the summer semester and 75% for the fall.
“This is a program of great value to the whole Tampa Bay region,” she said. “More and more professionals are needed, and these fellowships will bring a new level of professionalism to our students.”
Cihan Cobanoglu, interim dean in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, described how the new partnerships will augment the experiential learning opportunities for the students.
He noted that while the hospitality program is based on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, the hospitality and tourism management degree will expand to the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses starting in the fall. The expansion received approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges accrediting body this year.
These partnerships will provide the needed facilities for students to get hands-on training.
“We have all the ingredients to be the best hospitality program in the world,” he said. “What they are giving is priceless.”
David Vandenberg, regional vice president at Aramark, said this collaboration with USF will open the dining and hospitality doors for students.
“What we have discussed here is just scratching the surface,” he said. “What I hope never changes is the passion around hospitality — the passion to serve others and the need for people’s needs to be taken care of is absolutely the core of this business.”
At Mainsail Lodging and Development, the fellowships give hospitality students an opportunity to learn day-to-day operations with an exciting portfolio of lifestyle, boutique hotels, including Epicurean Tampa, Epicurean Atlanta, Fenway Hotel in Dunedin, Luminary Hotel & Co. in Fort Myers, Hotel Forty Five in Macon, Georgia, and Scrub Island Report, Spa & Marina in the British Virgin Islands.
Mainsail’s fast-paced corporate office in Tampa will offer additional experiences in sales and marketing, reservations, revenue management, and corporate housing.
“This partnership with USF elevates the awareness of the endless opportunities which exist in the hospitality industry,” said Juli Corlew, vice president and managing partner of Mainsail Lodging and Development. “In the past two years, we have doubled the size of our company, and our future pipeline of new projects dictates that we must continue to develop and source quality talent for all key management roles.”
USF’s hospitality and tourism management student Ketrin Gavani talked about how the hands-on learning she’ll get through the partnerships will be invaluable in helping her land a job.
“I am confident that Mainsail will help me, and other students, prepare to be leaders in hospitality, whether through food and beverage, operations, or corporate positions,” she said, adding that she recently completed an internship at Epicurean Tampa, a Mainsail property.
“By combining their expertise in lodging and USF’s innovative education, students will have the right skills and industry experience after graduation,” she said.