The iconic Disney castle, a symbol of the company that employs 200,000 workers globally, including many CSUF students and alumni.

The Walt Disney Company is one of the world’s largest hospitality companies, with nearly 200,000 employees worldwide. Photo from Pixabay.

More than 7 million people are employed in the hospitality industry or related fields, which encompasses the hotel, casino, event-planning, restaurant and sports sectors. A panel of industry professionals, including entertainment and tourism management alumna Ashley Coleman ’14, shared tips for success with Mihaylo students.

From the breathtaking scenery of California’s Big Sur coast to the world-class hotels and restaurants of New York City, tourism is big business in the United States. There are more than 4 million hotel guest rooms across the nation, and tourists and visiting business professionals spend about $550 billion each year in travel in the U.S. More than 7 million Americans are employed in the diverse industry, which includes the operation of casinos, resorts, restaurants, sports facilities and theme parks, in addition to hotels.

The Southern California Tourism Market

Home to Hollywood, Universal Studios, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and miles of scenic beaches, Los Angeles and Orange Counties are among the nation’s leading tourism markets. In 2015, Los Angeles area tourism increased for a fifth consecutive year, to a record-breaking 45.5 million visitors, with the goal of 50 million annual visitors by 2020.

Mihaylo College is at the forefront of training the next generation of hospitality professionals by emphasizing the business aspect of the industry. In 2015, the Cal State system awarded 96% of hospitality degrees in the state and CSU Fullerton is the only public institution of higher learning in Orange County to offer a degree program in the hospitality industry.

Panelists and Mihaylo College entertainment and hospitality management faculty pose in the O'Brien Conference Room at Cal State Fullerton's Steven G. Mihaylo Hall.

Panelists and Mihaylo entertainment and tourism professors at the panel discussion on March 9.

Diverse Perspectives on Hospitality Careers

To acquaint students with the opportunities available in hospitality and the skills necessary to succeed, Mihaylo Career Services and the Entertainment & Tourism Management Center hosted a panel discussion on March 9 with five professionals from local tourism-based enterprises.

Panelists Karri Urode-Abe, director of human resources for The Irvine Company’s Island Hotel; Madeline Douglass, human resources director for Hotel Irvine; Bianca Herrera, assistant human resources director for the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach; Ashley Coleman ’14 (entertainment and tourism management), corporate management trainee at the Hyatt Regency; and D.J. Norman, director of professional recruitment  and his assistant Tammy Edwards at The Walt Disney Company, shared the challenges and opportunities of careers in the field.

“In any role in the hotel industry, your day changes constantly,” Herrera said. “Your days are long but you are always on the go as you try to provide service to everyone. No two days are alike.”

The panelists agreed that customer service is at the heart of all hospitality jobs. “We look for someone who wants to go above and beyond in everyday service,” said Urode-Abe. “It’s great to have the knowledge, but it’s all about the attitude.”

An Alumna’s Perspective

Coleman began her career at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach as a seasonal employee and was soon promoted to a corporate management trainee position in guest services. She encourages students to take advantage of their courses and career events.

“When I was a student, I really enjoyed Dr. Ellen Kim’s tourism management class,” she said. “But it’s also so important to come to these panel events. Don’t be afraid to ask for an interview. These professionals are here to help, so take advantage of the opportunity.”

Karri Urode-Abe of The Irvine Company talks with Mihaylo College students at a career-focused event on campus in 2016.

Panelist Karri Urode-Abe discusses opportunities available at The Irvine Company with students.

Entry-Level Opportunities

With stiff competition, getting your foot in the door of the hospitality industry may seem daunting. Yet the panelists shared some opportunities.

The Walt Disney Company offers part-time seasonal work, a college program and professional internships at both the Anaheim and Orlando theme parks. With more than 5,000 employees, The Irvine Company offers a number of internship opportunities in Orange County, while Hyatt provides entry-level positions at locations around the world.

Hema Paliwal, senior employee relations associate for Mihaylo Career Services, noted the skills that employers are looking for. “There might be some opportunities for introverts, but most positions require working with people and require a lot of versatility,” she said. “Leadership experience, teamwork abilities, communication and problem-solving skills are essential.” She suggested that students sign up for job alerts for the companies they are interested in.

Helpful Resources

For more on Mihaylo’s entertainment and tourism program, visit the Mihaylo Entertainment & Tourism Management Center online or at SGMH 5357A. The center hosts networking events and provides resources for finding internships. Students can also participate in Behind the Scenes, a club that offers industry tours and regular panel discussions.

For more on career advice generally, visit Mihaylo Career Services at SGMH 1409 during their walk-in hours, which are Monday through Wednesday and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m., or visit them online.

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