Hospitality and tourism is all about relationships. If you don't believe that, travel approximately 35 minutes from the WVU campus to the small southwestern Pennsylvania town of Farmington, where Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is located.
That's where the College of Business and Economics (B&E) and Nemacolin relationship came together, and that's where it has flourished. The pipeline of student interns from B&E to the resort is growing stronger and stronger and, in some cases, has resulted in permanent employees.
Kory Young, a 1999 graduate of WVU's College of Arts and Sciences, is the director of Falling Rock, the 42-room boutique hotel at Nemacolin. Boasting five stars and five diamonds — which only a small handful of hotels around the world can claim — the property was home for B&E student Gary Romano this summer.
"Working here at Nemacolin was a huge opportunity for me," said the Morgantown native. "I don't think I would have had the opportunity to gain the knowledge and experience behind working at a five-star, five-diamond resort anywhere else."
He interned in the Guest Services Department where his job duties included a variety of experiences ranging from a front desk agent to the housekeeping department to human resources, sales and reservations.
Fellow Hospitality and Tourism Management student Devin Cuzzolina saw a different part of Nemacolin's operations this summer. Working in the Activities Department, the Altoona, Pa., native headed activities for Nemacolin guests ranging from paintball to team building, and from the Jeep Driving Course to the zip line.
"I worked in some hospitality areas before, but never anything as nice as this," said Cuzzolina, who lived in associate housing on the property during the summer. "Even though there's a professionalism here, there's also a real sense of down to earth. Everyone here is very easy to get along with, but at the same time they're very good at what they do. I think that really helped me learn this summer."
Cuzzolina said he cultivated his group learning, managerial, bonding and communications skills, but emphasized that the relationship between WVU and Nemacolin allowed him to work at an internationally renowned resort. That, he said, is not something to take lightly.
"(At Nemacolin) you're really just looking out for the overall guest experience," he said. "It's not just about what your job is; it's about the team goal."
Young said the experience of working at Nemacolin and at the highly touted Falling Rock will open doors at similar properties all over the globe.
"Interns have an opportunity to come into a resort that does things at the very highest level in every respect," he said. "When you apply what you learn at school and then you come into a place like Nemacolin and incorporate your academic standards into Nemacolin standards, you get immersed in an environment in a manner that exudes excellence. And when you learn that at a young age, you have a preconceived idea of how things need to be done at the very highest level. When interns work at Nemacolin, they have that opportunity to immerse themselves in an environment where that's all that's acceptable."
Romano said the Nemacolin experience has prepared him for what lies ahead.
"I have a better understanding of the industry," said Romano, who wants to explore the sales and marketing area of the industry. "This is the first real experience I've had in lodging, and it will be valuable wherever this all takes me next."
Cuzzolina's stint at Nemacolin has actually continued into the fall, as he continues to work at the resort part-time on weekends. How would he rate his internship? "I would give it a solid A," he said with a smile. "A place like Nemacolin is kind of hard to leave."
Young said the relationship between B&E and Nemacolin continues to breed excitement. "Every opportunity we get to hire a student from WVU, we take it," he said. "Every experience I've had with interns from WVU is that they're humble and hardworking, and they understand that the real life experiences they get day to day working at our hotel is going to be what gives them the perspective they'll need to be great leaders upon graduation, or perhaps even before."