Hardcore Hospitality: Nicole learns more than she expected while pursuing her degree

Nicole Grover

Nicole Grover

Nicole Grover didn’t expect to learn as much as she did in her college classes.

She has worked for years in the hospitality industry, and has a certificate in culinary arts from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Academy of Culinary Arts. A dual major in Hotel and Restaurant Management and Event Management, she decided to improve her career advancement opportunities by earning a college degree, and opted for SUNY Broome.

“I feel like it takes both experience and a degree,” she said of her decision to head back to school. “This program gives you a lot of experience to go with it. You’re not just getting a piece of paper, but a lot of knowledge as well.”

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She attends SUNY Broome part-time, juggling her classes with a demanding schedule at Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital, where she supervises the kitchen and oversees all catering events. In fact, the operation caters multiple events daily, ranging from a few people at meetings to the annual Guthrie summer picnic with a crowd of 1,500.

As with many jobs in the hospitality industry, hours can vary widely, which can make juggling classes and homework difficult. In addition to working with her boss on schedule adjustments, Grover also opts to take as many online courses as she can to give herself flexibility. So far, she has taken online courses in college writing, hotel and restaurant cost control, and even an internship. (For that last, the internship is in-person, but the coursework is done online.)

Still, she enjoys the hands-on nature of her on-campus courses, including wedding planning, catering and even Food in History and Society, which she didn’t initially think she would enjoy.

Nicole Grover

Nicole Grover

“So far, I’ve enjoyed all of my classes. The professor that does food and history was really awesome, a little old school. I learned more than I thought I was going to learn – how food becomes a thing, how coffee became popular, the beginning of Coke products,” she reflected. “I came out with something I didn’t think I was going to. Even in the catering class, I learned things I haven’t learned in the industry.”

Hospitality Programs Chair Rey Wojdat and Event Management Professor Maria Montemagno are also “hardcore” – tough professors who demand the best from their students, Grover said. While not every student may appreciate this, the program’s rigor and high standards can only help once students graduate and enter the industry, which is also demanding and fast-paced.

But that’s part of the reason Nicole Grover loves the hospitality industry.

“I love the ever-changing nature of it – the changing trends, the diet trends, how catering events are set up, planning an event, customer service,” she said.

Now 30 years old, she’s not entirely sure where her SUNY Broome education will take her – and that’s okay. That, too, is the nature of the hospitality business.

“In this industry, there are so many things you can do. You can change your mind in five years and master something else,” she said.