We have so many classes that are extremely educational in a fun way.
Vanessa Gil can still smell the aroma of ginger and garlic that permeated the kitchen at FGCU’s Sugden Hall in June 2013. Gil, then a rising senior at Barron Collier High School, was part of the Hyatt High School Summer Bridge Program, hosted by FGCU’s School of Resort & Hospitality Management.
That’s where it all started for her. She was hooked on hospitality.
Along with other high school students in the program, Vanessa stayed for three nights in an FGCU residence hall and two nights at the Hyatt Plantation, learned from hospitality industry leaders and got hands-on industry experience in everything from tourism to entrepreneurship.
“We met general managers at hotels and restaurants, got tours of the campus and RHM building, had the opportunity of getting tours of the hotels and restaurants, asking local managers questions about their hospitality careers and having dinner with them,” she says. “We had an etiquette class, and we were also able to cook in our own kitchen with FGCU instructor and chef James Fraser. It was so helpful to get that little exposure in high school because it really convinced me to pursue hospitality. “
After that, she followed the advice of program coordinator and assistant professor Marcia Taylor and attended the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality’s national conference. That led to an interview with the Hyatt corporate recruiter and an offer for an internship in Orlando.
“After that experience, my career in hospitality began falling into place,” says Vanessa, who in June 2018 started a corporate management in training program with Hyatt in Savannah, Ga.
She remains grateful to FGCU’s School of School of Resort & Hospitality Management for opening that door and inspiring her to pursue her dreams. She encourages students to take advantage of the abundance of available electives.
“We have cruise line, Disney, wine tasting, event planning,” she says. “We have so many classes that are extremely educational in a fun way. Even if you aren’t interested in events, cruise lines, spas, take the step and take the courses to broaden your knowledge and be exposed to new things in this industry. You may fall in love with something completely new and foreign to you.”