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Cornell's School of Hotel Administration ranked best in the world

Cornell displays more than 30 awards for their School of Hotel Administration in the hotel’s lobby.
By Rachel Mucha and Will Uhl

Every week, Ryan Kim works 16 hours at Cornell’s Statler Hotel. He spends his days booking reservations, checking in guests, and even cleaning the rooms. While he is earning some much needed money, Kim is gaining something far more important: experience. Kim is a junior at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration and he gains knowledge in and out of the classroom. Cornell’s unique program gives hotel students a well-rounded education and allows them to practically apply what they learn before they graduate. It’s no surprise that this has earned the school a lot of praise.

Earlier this month, CEOWorld Magazine ranked Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration (SHA) the best in the world. Three hundred hotel schools were evaluated, and the magazine released a list of the top 50. The students and staff are very proud of the recognition, but are not very surprised that SHA is the best. Kim knew the school was top-notch before he even applied.

“I’m from Korea and it’s actually pretty well known there because a lot of people who run these big hospitality programs also graduated from Cornell,” he said.

One strength of the program is the diversity of classes. The school assigns each student a variety of courses so they receive a well-rounded education.

“They want to balance everything out for you, so you typically take a lot of different classes–Hotel Operations, Food Ops…they really try to get you learning about the entire process of the hotel,” Kim said.

Colton Haney, also a junior, knows how important this is.

“As an ambassador for the school, I always mention how strong our core curriculum is in preparing its students for the hospitality business world and I think that this ranking is a well-deserved recognition of that,” he said.

Something else that makes the program at SHA so unique is the Statler Hotel, which is on campus. The students are able to gain experience and work in the hotel while they are still undergraduates. Judith Lee Brownell, professor of management and organizational behavior at SHA, believes the Statler is key to students’ success.

“The best way to become a leader is to continuously apply classroom material. The Statler Hotel provides a laboratory for our students,” she said.

Kim enjoys working at the Statler Hotel because he always gets to do something different.

“Instead of just learning in a classroom setting, you get to do it in the hotel itself. So you have to spend a day with the housekeepers cleaning rooms, or you do it in the kitchen. It really gives you a hands on experience,” Kim said.

Though the hotel is on Cornell’s campus, it’s normally pretty busy, with guests ranging from businesspeople to prospective students visiting the campus. Kim says he sees a lot of alumni filtering in and out of the hotel as well, staying just to revisit the Statler. SHA builds a strong sense of community between the students since they all share a common career goal. Haney believes that the heavy curriculum creates enthusiastic students.

“It does require a strong sense of certainty to know this is what you want to do from the first day, which brings in a very passionate group of people” he said.

Small class sizes help to bring the students–also known as Hotelies–together, but the demands of their classes keep them in Statler Hall and the hotel for long periods of time.

“A typical day for a Hotelie is entering Statler Hall for a class and pretty much never leaving. We are jokingly referred to at times as ‘Statler High’ because of how small our school is and the fact that many of us don’t really leave the building,” Haney said.

Both Kim and Haney wouldn’t want it any other way, though. Besides finding his niche in Cornell, Kim has learned skills that will help him not only in his future career but also in his everyday life.

“Every class I take matters and is relevant for my life. Even culinary–I’ve learned to cook better and I can cook in my house. Hotel operations–I know when I go into a hotel what to do now,” he said.

When asked about the demanding course load and work commitments required for SHA, Haney said he doesn’t mind at all.

“Why would we want to leave [Statler]?”

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