Hospitality management students rise to the occasion for ‘Raise a Glass' event

Marjorie S. Miller
February 08, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students in the School of Hospitality Management (SHM) planned and implemented the event, “Raise a Glass for Good” last semester to benefit the Centre County United Way.

While the fundraising component was a success — it raised $4,200, which was more money than expected — the students gained something invaluable: hands-on experience in a field they’re passionate about and that many plan to pursue as a career.

Each year, students enrolled in the School of Hospitality Management (SHM) course Advanced Meeting and Event Management collaborate with a local organization to plan, promote, implement and evaluate a special event. The idea is to provide future event-management professionals the opportunity to gain real-world experience, said course instructor Jacqueline Golas, program and events manager in SHM.

Held in December at Cafe Laura in Mateer Building on the University Park campus, “Raise a Glass for Good” was a wine-tasting and cooking-demonstration event where participants were served featured entrees prepared by three professional chefs from Penn State Campus Dining. Wine was provided by Happy Valley Winery. 

“There were many moving parts of coordinating all of the stakeholders for this event. It was an investment of time and effort from all of our stakeholders,” Golas said. “The chefs, winery owners, and SHM United Way committee contributed much of their own time preparing for the event from attending planning meetings with the students, email communications, and additional preparations. Our chefs especially took a personal interest in the success of the event.”

Chef-food-Raise-A-Glass-event

The event featured cooking demonstrations where participants were served featured entrees prepared by three professional chefs from Penn State Campus Dining.

IMAGE: Jacqueline Golas

The chefs came to the class twice for planning meetings and Golas met with them a third time at the winery to determine wine pairings, she said. 

“Additionally, they spent their own time writing their recipes and preparing for their presentations. The chefs also took care of their own food orders and did some food preparations the week leading into the event, and did a practice run with students the day prior to the event,” Golas said.  

To plan the event, students in the class were divided into four committees: production, development, experience and communication.  

“As someone who aspires to be an event professional, I could not have asked for a better course or event to gain exposure to the industry."

— Katie Jeffries, senior in hospitality management at Penn State

Jeffries was a member of the experience committee whose goal was to provide guests with a lively and enjoyable experience at the event. 

“As our instructor, Jackie Golas was able to guide us through every element needed in order to put on a successful event. The event also helped us learn that the more invested the event manager is, the more successful the event will be. It makes me want to treat any of my future events with the same amount of passion I felt for this one,” Jeffries said.

Jeffries said the best part of the event was seeing her and her classmates’ semester-long hard work pay off at the event.

“We were responsible for creating and maintaining the registration site that our guests would use to sign up for and donate to the event,” she said. “We also administered the post-event survey that helped gauge the success of the event based on the opinions of the attendees.

“Being a part of this event was such a special opportunity. Although there were separate committees each with their own roles, my class never lost sight of the primary goal: to raise money for the Centre County United Way and make the School of Hospitality Management proud,” Jeffries said. “My favorite part of the event was the last few minutes when my classmates and I stood in front of our attendees to thank them for their support. It was so surreal seeing an entire semester of hard work not just pay off, but exceed expectations. It was an honor to be able to support the community and my school.”

Sara Mercogliano, a senior also majoring in Hospitality Management, was on the communications committee. This committee’s responsibilities included marketing and communication as well as social media for the event. 

“My favorite part of the event was working alongside my peers and seeing all of our hard work come together in the end,” Mercogliano said. “After a semester of planning the event in its entirety, it was extremely rewarding to see 'Raise a Glass for Good' be so successful and provide help to Centre County United Way.”

Through her coursework and the entire production of the event, Mercogliano learned the importance of staying on top of all tasks, staying organized and getting ahead by planning early. 

“There are a lot of small details that get overlooked leading up the event day, and by being prepared it will help to avoid some stress,” she said. 

David Anderson, managing chef at Pollock Dining Commons at University Park, said the students came up with novel ideas that made the event fun and different than a regular sit-down dinner — for example, the cooking demonstrations.

“The students came up with unique ideas that made the event engaging for the guests,” Anderson said. “Adding the cooking demos was a great way to pull everyone in attendance into the event.”

Chef-Demonstration

'Raise a Glass for Good' participants look on at a cooking demonstration. The fundraising event raised $4,200 for the Centre County United Way. 

IMAGE: Jacqueline Golas

Anderson said one aspect in which he saw the students excel was learning how to handle the logistics of the event.

“They worked hard to coordinate so many independent features so they all converged at the same time at the same place,” he said. 

Mandee Davis and Marja Verbeeten, members of the SHM United Way committee, said they were impressed with how hard the students worked, and with the outcome of the event.

This project, Davis said, was a great way for students to apply their knowledge from the classroom to real-world experience.  

“Taking those skills into the workforce and applying them is a great way to explore different career paths that suit individual interests,” Davis said. 

Not only will this project give individuals an edge over other candidates when applying for jobs, it also prepares them for what to expect in the field and increases confidence in their work, according to Verbeeten, who added that the course and event-planning experience also provides students with the soft skills needed in the workplace and in leadership positions. 

“Skills, such as communication, leadership, problem-solving and teamwork can all be learned through a project like this,” Verbeeten said. “Most organizations and jobs that students apply for following graduation want employees to have some sort of professional experience, even for entry-level jobs. While professors prepare students for the theoretical side of the field, hands-on projects provide opportunities for receiving feedback from someone who works in the field.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 08, 2019