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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2020 Making An Impact

Marriott Family Foundation Investment Empowers Hospitality Industry Relations Program

Story by Sue McMurray • Photo courtesy of Marriott Family Foundation
J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott

One of the things that sets the WSU School of Hospitality Business Management (SHBM) apart from other academic programs is a requirement that all hospitality majors complete 1,000 hours of paid experience in the hospitality industry. Annually tracking the progress of 1,000 hospitality students across all WSU campuses is a job in itself—but one of the most rewarding in the school, if you ask Amy Alonzo.

Alonzo (’07 HBM) is the point of contact for tracking internship hours, managing hospitality career fairs, and internship and job placement advising. Hired in 2018, she is the fourth person to hold the position since Larry Culver (’64 Hotel & Rest. Mgmt.) and his wife Vickie established the Culver Hospitality Fund in 2011, which has supported the role until now.

“I love connecting with the students and helping them find their ideal internship or job after graduation,” says Alonzo. “It’s exciting when they tell me they have interviews coming up with a certain company they want to work for and then landing that job. Seeing their joy and confidence helps me know I’m in the right place.”

Recently, Alonzo became even more enthusiastic about her role, thanks to a recent $750,000 investment from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

Five-Year Investment Increases and Diversifies Industry Opportunities

Marriott International founders J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott believed everyone deserves the resources and opportunities to create positive change in their lives. Honoring their legacy, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation is committed to advancing workforce readiness and developing the next generation of hospitality leaders with partners such as WSU. The foundation also invests in promoting innovations in medical research and mental health and strengthening the D.C. community.

“We are very proud to partner with Carson College to support students as they enter and thrive in the hospitality industry,” says Mieka Wick, executive director of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. “When we work together to give students educational opportunities to achieve their dreams and make a positive difference in the world, it multiplies the value of our investment.”

“The Marriott Family Foundation’s five-year investment means we will be able to offer industry experiential learning opportunities to more students,” says Alonzo. “Up to now, only a select few have been able to participate in weeklong externships. This will help get students to more locations to learn from more industry partners. These experiential learning opportunities help shape the students for the future hospitality industry, give them experiences to talk about for years, and possibly earn a job from that company.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Alonzo’s position will now be called “The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation industry relations manager.” She plans to build out new networking events and career fairs, which will lead to higher placement rates at time of graduation. Closer partnerships with companies and industry representatives will also expand outreach and support SHBM students’ travel to regional and national markets, she explains.

High school and first-generation college students in particular may benefit from the foundation’s philanthropic gesture.

At WSU Pullman, 20 percent of the entering class in the Carson College of Business and one-third of the entire freshman class are first-generation. Alonzo is a valuable resource to this group as they navigate the college experience and prepare for life and work after graduation. She plans to expand SHBM involvement in high school programming such as career competitions and national leadership conferences including Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).

Philanthropic Sponsorships Affirm Program Credibility and Student Quality

The impact of the foundation’s investment ties directly to the SHBM’s goal to be ranked among the top five programs for undergraduate education in the United States, says Bob Harrington, SHBM director.

Support and engagement from industry partners are critically important to the quality of programs and student success, says Harrington. “The investment supports greater industry relationships for our students and faculty and is a key differentiator for student learning and program quality in hospitality business.”

“What makes the Marriott Family Foundation a great partner for WSU is its commitment to cultivate future hospitality professionals through higher education,” he says. “Our connection to the foundation provides both credibility and a benchmark for student aspirations.”