Cover and feature photos by Audrey Dempsey @infinity photo

As the spring semester commences, UNLV hospitality students will be experiencing a number of big changes. These changes may be in the form of job and internship opportunities as well as new coursework. Of course, there is one major change that hospitality students and faculty have been especially looking forward to: the opening of the recently-constructed Hospitality Hall, which is the new home of the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. Formerly called the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, the college changed the name in September 2017 to reflect the fact that the hospitality school does so much more than just teach people how to be hotel managers. 

 

Until last year, the Hospitality College shared the Frank and Estella Beam Hall with the Lee Business School, and space was tight. One of the most common complaints among students was that classrooms were so full there was little room to pass through each row. In addition to cramped quarters, students faced long lines to the restrooms between classes. Students also complained about finding places to study, which was never easy in Beam Hall. Basically, the two colleges were just too big for Beam. 

The new Hospitality Hall building, located across from UNLV’s Lied Library, was designed to solve many of these problems. The $60 million dollar structure provides 93,500-square-feet of new office, event and learning space and is equipped with spacious restrooms and plenty of common spaces for students and faculty. Other special features include: convertible and interactive classrooms; a PGA Golf Management learning center, with a retail store, simulation lab and an outdoor putting green; a state-of-the-art executive kitchen; a 120-seat auditorium; a student-run café; and a full-service beverage lab (the Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits Beverage Academy).

Rather than being named after a single donor like many buildings on the UNLV campus, Hospitality Hall was designed to feature the names of numerous donors, or building “Founders.” The Founders names are highlighted at the entrance of the building as well as throughout the interior spaces, allowing students to be introduced to these companies and the huge impact they will have on their future careers. Without the help of donors like Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands, Konami Gaming, MGM Resorts, Boyd Gaming, Red Rock Resorts, the Marriott Foundation and the Engelstad Family Foundation, Hospitality Hall would not have been possible. 

Hospitality Hall will be opening to everyone at the start of spring semester classes on January 16, 2018. A building open house, welcoming in both the campus and the Las Vegas communities, will take place on January 25, 2018 from 4 to 7 p.m., featuring building tours and refreshments.

Harrah Hospitality College Dean Dr. Stowe Shoemaker was instrumental in the process of getting Hospitality Hall up and running. Prior to serving as dean, Shoemaker worked in sales and marketing for the hotel industry as well as consumer research, specifically looking at product development for food and beverage companies. Dean Shoemaker kindly offered his time to answer a few questions about Hospitality Hall:

Why do you believe it took UNLV more than 30 years to finally build a home for hospitality majors? 

There’s been talk about a new hospitality building for a long time, and the idea for the building has been around since 2006; but for years, economic indicators suggested that it wouldn’t be feasible. Now the economy is at the right stage for having our own building.

Were the needs of hospitality students taken into consideration when designing the blueprints for the building? 

We spent a lot of time looking at what makes a great hospitality space and thinking about how we make sure our building mimics that, because if you’re a student and you’re working on the Strip, where you go to school should mirror where you work. 

Hospitality Hall is a space where everybody wants to come and hang out, with lots of spaces where you can sit and study. At Beam Hall, there are not a lot of opportunities to gather because it’s mainly classrooms. So in our new building, we made sure there are numerous different little nooks and crannies and a coffee shop that has space where you can get together with your group to study. 

How is the hospitality college ensuring that the college’s curriculum reflects what is happening in the industry?

We are actually getting ready to redo our whole curriculum. We brought industry folks in to talk about what the curriculum should really look like to make sure that what we’re teaching is what students need to learn. In terms of technology, one of my advisory board members is a leading expert in technological solutions for hospitality enterprises and is working with a couple of our faculty and with the industry to really say, “What are the tools the industry is using and how do we make sure we’re having those tools available for our students?” 

How different is the state-of-the-art kitchen in the Hospitality Hall different from that of the kitchens in Beam Hall?

Welbilt, which is one of the leading foodservice manufacturers in the world of food service equipment, donated all the latest equipment for the kitchen. Every cooking station has combination ovens, or combi ovens, with three functions: convection, steam and combination cooking. In the convection mode, the oven circulates dry heat; the steam mode injects water into the oven to poach fish or steam rice and vegetables; or you can do both together. We have monitors spread throughout the kitchen, so you’ll be at your cooking station and you’ll be able to see the chef while you’re doing what you need to do. 

Will the new building better accommodate capstone events and will they no longer be held in the Stan Fulton Building? 

Our capstone classes will still be held in Stan Fulton Building and in Beam Hall because of the space needed to serve that many students in the restaurant format. Hospitality Hall will be used mostly for catered events, which works well considering that we have this beautiful balcony that overlooks the Las Vegas Strip. 

What exactly is the Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits Beverage Academy?

The Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits Beverage Academy is where we will be teaching our beverage classes. There will be a working bar so that students [can] really learn everything they need to learn about beverage. What’s exciting is that the Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits team is really helping decide what features should go into the bar to really make this a teachable lab. It will be state-of-the art, and we’re really going to be able to focus on beverages. This means not only learning how to make beverages but understanding the components of beverage. [Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits] putting in the Beverage Academy in Hospitality Hall really makes a statement to the industry that we really want our kids [students] to be leaders in the beverage field when they graduate. 

Why did the Hotel College decide to have a student-run café in the Hospitality Hall rather than allow Aramark to add another location to the building?

It’s [called] the MGM Café and the director will be Chef Mark Sandoval. He’s created a team of managers who have been interviewing employees [students] to work in the coffee shop. It’s a great opportunity for students to get real applied experience. What we don’t want to happen is to have a student take a bunch of classes, earn a degree, start working in hospitality and go “oh, wow, I didn’t realize that it was like this. I don’t think I’m suited for the hospitality industry.” When you are doing an interview, you can say “when I went to UNLV, I started working in the coffee shop, became manager, was responsible for profit and loss and also worked in hospitality catering. So I have all this great experience and you should look at me as an investment and not just as an employee.”