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Hospitality student gives Peace Corps a chance

Hospitality student gives Peace Corps a chance

David Harrison of La Verne, Calif., starts his new job next month after graduating in June from the Collins School of Hospitality at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Harrison, however, won’t be heading to a resort or running a restaurant. He’s traveling to Uganda for a 27-month tour with the Peace Corps. Given the challenging employment market, hospitality graduates such as Harrison are having to consider very different alternatives to traditional restaurant or hotel management positions. Harrison will work with a Uganda agency focused on community health and economic development. But he believes his hospitality education has prepared him well for the assignment.

Why did you apply for a job with the Peace Corps?

A couple of my professors convinced me it’s OK not to immediately become a corporate trainee right out of college. Also, a management job I had lined up at the Hyatt fell through during spring break. It was like the door slammed shut. Anyway, I eventually want to work for an international nonprofit, and they all want you to have international experience.

What are you going to be doing in Uganda?

I’ll be advising the CHED—community health and economic development—on ways to increase revenue and sustainability of companies.

How do you think your hospitality education will help you in the new job?

The degree in hospitality management is all about managing expectations, whether you’re at the front desk of a hotel or a line cook in the kitchen. There are expectations you are trying to meet for the people you are connecting with. You’re also managing people—guests and staff. It’s a very people-focused education.

How do you hope to manage Ugandans’ expectations?

[At Cal Poly Pomona] we had a leadership class that was about how to unify. How do you unify your staff with your visions, values and beliefs and how do you make sure they are aligned with the organization. In Uganda, I’ll have to learn their culture, beliefs and value to work with them and find a unified vision.

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