SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 25, 2017) – Hospitality student Melody Mishkin just happens to be “in paradise” learning the practical side of the luxury resort business.
“I work every day in paradise and I work with a great team,” the USFSM senior says.
The resort is among dozens of local businesses to host USFSM interns, but it also enjoys a unique relationship as the college’s official “teaching hotel.” That distinction originated in 2013 when Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu, director of the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation at USFSM, launched a dialogue to create the partnership.
Four years later, USFSM couldn’t be happier. The resort not only provides internships, but it invites student groups to tour the facilities and regularly sends managers to the campus for guest lecture spots.
“We’ve worked with a number of different professors and the program has definitely turned out to be very beneficial to the students,” says Rick Benninghove, director of resort operations and a frequent guest lecturer. “Instead of just what they learn in textbooks, the students get to see what actually goes on at a resort and to ask questions about different operational areas and learn how to resolve challenging situations.”
But it’s the internship program that represents the college’s most valuable learning tool. Like other interns, Mishkin is gaining a 360-degree view of both the facility itself and the larger, upscale lodging industry.
She started work in May and has since received plenty of instruction by rotating through various resort departments and delving into everything from shift scheduling and the resort’s room-reservation software to inventory auditing.
The training is key as Mishkin hopes to someday land an upper-management position at a luxury resort or hotel corporation. For now, she’s working the front desk, where her daily interactions with guests are providing the most important lessons so far.
“You definitely learn more than what’s in a textbook, like being on your game, responding appropriately and knowing how to handle both difficult and routine guest interactions,” she said.
Dr. Pat Moreo, dean of the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, said the internship’s aim is to do just that, to give students a real-world glimpse into their field of study.
“Our goal is to bring the classroom and the practice together,” he said. “The Longboat Key Club and Resort has been a tremendous gift to us in reaching that goal.”
For years, the award-winning 410-acre beachfront property at the southern end of Longboat Key has been the standard bearer of luxury resorts in Sarasota and beyond. It boasts 223 guest rooms and suites, two outdoor pools, eight restaurants and lounges, a 291-slip marina, 45 holes of golf and 20 tennis courts. It regularly shows up on travel websites and in magazines as a top vacation destination, and for the past 36 years it’s been rated as a AAA Four-Diamond Resort.
Mishkin, who grew up working in small “mom-and-pop” restaurants in Osprey, said that’s no surprise given the resort’s emphasis on professionalism, courtesy and attention to detail.
“You have to be creative and thoughtful in everything you do and try to anticipate guest needs,” she said. “We’re part of making dreams come true. We’re part of people’s happiest memories, their biggest events, their weddings, their family vacations.
“People want to enjoy themselves here,” she said. “They want to come here and feel safe and welcome, and our job is to ensure they have that experience and can’t wait to book a return visit.”
To learn more about USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, visit usfsm.edu/chtl/.