CHICAGO — Leaders from two iconic Chicago hospitality
groups, Lettuce Entertain You restaurants and Hyatt Hotels, have joined a new Executive
in Residence program at DePaul University. The program brings executives into
the School of Hospitality Leadership to network with faculty, advise students
and connect them with Chicago’s world-class hospitality industry.
The first cohort of the program includes Lettuce Entertain
You executive partners Jerrod Melman and Marc Jacobs; and Paul Daly, area vice
president for Hyatt and general manager of the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.
Wealth of hospitality
industry is ‘people’
“When the executives are here, the students light up and are
engaged at a different level,” said Misty Johanson, director of the school and
associate dean of the Driehaus College of Business. Other hospitality programs
around the country need to build facilities to expose students to the industry,
but DePaul innovated a different approach, explained Johanson.
“We are blessed that our students have Chicagoland as a lab
for learning in the field. And industry partners want to be part of the daily
activities in the school. So we’ve brought the wealth of the local industry
here, and that’s its people,” said Johanson.
DePaul’s School for Hospitality Leadership began offering its
degree programs in 2010 and has grown quickly in size and reputation. With
about 300 students, the school is business-focused and has a highly
personalized career-development component. Johanson said the Executive in
Residence program is among the first of its kind in hospitality higher
education. For the executives, the residency is an opportunity to influence
young leaders who will shape the future of hospitality in Chicago.
Chicago is a ‘hospitality
Daly, a 25-year veteran in the hotel industry, said there is
a “natural connection” between DePaul and Hyatt, which has its global
headquarters in downtown Chicago, not far from DePaul’s business college. A
founding member of the school’s advisory board, Daly said interactions with
students keep him engaged with his work. “Their enthusiasm helps me stay
focused and reenergizes me. It’s great to bring students to the hotel, listen
to their ideas and introduce them to Hyatt.”
Most DePaul graduates stay in Chicago, and Melman sees the
residency as a way to keep talent local. “Chicago is more than just a great food city, it's a
hospitality town,” said Melman, who graduated from DePaul in 2008 with a
bachelor’s degree in communications before joining the family business. “What I
love about this program is DePaul helps students understand the career
realities of this industry and focuses on getting them ready for real jobs in
our community.” Melman has opened more than a dozen restaurants, including HUB 51,
Three Dots and a Dash, and RPM Italian in Chicago and Washington, D.C. “Building
relationships early on benefits us and it benefits students,” he said.
A hallmark of the program is one-on-one sessions where
executives counsel students on career choices. “Today’s marketplace is
different, and millennials are different,” said Jacobs, who also sits on the
school’s advisory board. “While employers are definitely interested in classroom
experience, students also need to be trying new things to see what they like --
and what they don’t like – before they graduate.”
Jacobs is encouraging students to do just that, and he knows
firsthand about the importance of hands-on experience. He started at Lettuce as
a busser in 1991 and worked his way up, training as a line cook and taking on
increasing roles in leadership. He went on to open several popular Lettuce
restaurants including Antico Posto, Foodease market at Water Tower Place, Ema
“We’re helping students to be more career-focused so when
they’re done with the program, they’re going to more quickly find the avenue
that’s right for them,” said Jacobs.
Companies sponsor their executives’ time at DePaul and
support student engagement activities throughout the year. Daly sees the residency
as a “growth opportunity.” He mentors students in DePaul’s chapter of the
American Hotel Lodging Association, helping them think through strategic goals
and fundraising. Recently, Daly worked with the student club before a big
competition, and they won second place nationally.
“From a career perspective, it’s been neat to see the
commonality between what we see in the industry and what’s being taught at
DePaul. The curriculum and its programs are spot on, and we are there to advise
on trends and changes in the field. It’s been a fun journey so far,” Daly
The School of Hospitality is housed in DePaul’s Driehaus
College of Business, which is accredited by the Association to Advance
Collegiate Schools of Business, a distinction earned by less than 5 percent of
business schools worldwide. For more information, visit http://hospitality.depaul.edu.
Kristin Claes Mathews