Cover Feature

Changing Lives: Companies put out welcome mat for hospitality students

Ketrin Gavani

Ketrin Gavani at the 2022 HospitaBull event, a sumptuous dinner prepared and presented by students from USF’s hospitality program and  Ritz-Carlton Sarasota culinary staff. The event raises funds for scholarships and support for the hospitality program. [Photo: USF Sarasota-Manatee]

By ELIZABETH L. BROWN | Muma College of Business

Ketrin Gavani hopes to become a leader in the hospitality industry after she earns her degree in hospitality management from USF in December.

To achieve that goal, she knew she had to learn the basics.

“The best way to lead in the hospitality industry is by learning about the foundation,” she says.

That’s exactly what a spring semester internship allowed her to do. For four months, Gavani rotated among a variety of roles at Epicurean Tampa, a lifestyle, boutique hotel owned by Mainsail Lodging and Development.

USF’s Muma College of Business has partnered with Mainsail, a specialist in the tourism lodging sector, and with Aramark, the on-campus food service and catering vendor, to give up to 130 hospitality students valuable paid-on-the-job professional experience.

The eight-year agreement with Aramark provides fellowships for graduate students in the USF hospitality program. The opportunity allows up to 10 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. In addition to learning day-to-day operations in the company’s hotels, students will have opportunities to work in sales and marketing, reservations, revenue management and corporate housing in Mainsail’s Tampa office.

The total value of the partnerships is $3.6 million.

USF also has a partnership with McKibbon Hospitality that creates hotel learning labs where students can shadow 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.

While the hospitality program is based on USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus, the hospitality and tourism management degree is expanding to the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses this fall. 

During her internship, Gavani rotated among roles in the front office, such as telephone system operator and front desk host. Interested in learning about event management, she shadowed managers, sat in on sales meetings and assisted with banquets.

Gavani is enthusiastic about the benefits the partnerships will provide.

“Students can truly learn what path they would like to go in either through hotels or food and beverage, where the opportunities are endless,” she says. “For example, I became interested in revenue management as I learned more about Mainsail and corporate operations throughout my internship. These partnerships will serve students to find what department or position best fits their skills and leads to the most potential growth.”