"To me, hospitality requires the mind-set of giving for the sake of giving as opposed to gaining. At every level, it's about surrounding yourself with talented, passionate people who are committed to success."
- Russ Bendel, one of 37
The Collins College Board of Advisors comprises 37 high-level industry executives. As a group, they have given more than $280,000 to the college in the past five years to start a fund that supports college projects and special needs. Each member is committed to donating a minimum of $2,000 a year, and many donate $5,000 to the college.
In the coming year, the board is considering making a contribution of $100,000 from its fund to update technology and furnish two new academic buildings under construction, according to board member Mary Niven, vice president of Disney California Adventure Park and Guest Services. Previous allocations have had significant impact on students. For instance, the board donated $62,000 for scholarships when the struggling economy depleted returns on scholarship endowments, and it provided $1,000 to send students to a National Society of Minorities in Hospitality conference.
"What stands out most to me is the board's commitment to the students," says Dean Andy Feinstein. "Every single one of the members goes above and beyond the call of duty. They are real heroes to our students."
- Mary Niven,
Financial contributions are important in an era of shrinking public funds. But they are not the only form of support that allows The Collins College to thrive. Teamwork is the bedrock of success in the hospitality industry. Behind every hotel or restaurant professional is someone or some group working behind the scenes, providing support, expertise and acumen. Board members ensure the program's methods and practices are consistent with those of the industry and that its curriculum is aligned with industry needs.
"Thanks to our board, we know our graduates hit the ground running because their knowledge is current and the hands-on experiences they have had are relevant," Feinstein says.
Keeping the college current is important to board member Don Ayres III, principal of Ayres Hotels, a family-owned company that develops and manages 20 hotels in Southern California. Ayres has hired dozens of Collins College students and graduates since the family opened its first European boutique-style hotel in 1984.
"We have so many hotels surrounding the university that serving on the board has been a natural fit," says Ayres.
Numerous other hospitality companies have identified the university as a recruitment site, including Disney, Marriott, Darden Restaurants and Hilton Worldwide. One of the keys to students' successes after they graduate comes from the mentoring they received during their studies.
- Don Ayres III,
"I try to put questions in students' minds to help them make smart choices," says Russ Bendel, a board member and CEO of Habit Restaurants. "To be successful, graduates must strategically manage their careers and strive to be a part of organizations that share some of their same values."
Bendel's son, Russell, graduated from The Collins College in 2005 and is now the operating partner at a Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. "His time at Cal Poly Pomona exposed him to a lot of people and different segments of the hospitality industry like hotels, country clubs, resorts and restaurants. It gave him a great overview of what our industry is about."
Niven says that the best mentorships expose students to a variety of career options and help them develop a professional network. "One of the nicest, most thoughtful letters I've ever received came from a Cal Poly Pomona mentee, and whenever I'm having a bad day, I pull it out of my desk drawer and look at it," she says. "It's meaningful to remind myself how much she treasured the experience."
Bendel sees his service on the board as a labor of love.
"To me, hospitality requires the mind-set of giving for the sake of giving as opposed to gaining," he says. "At every level, it's about surrounding yourself with talented, passionate people who are committed to success."
The Collins College of Hospitality Management offers the first and largest four-year hospitality management degree program in California and is the only hospitality management college on the West Coast.
The primary campaign goals for the college
include endowment funds that support professorial
positions, unrestricted student scholarships and faculty development.
Andy Feinstein, Dean
Gina Johnson, Director of Major Gifts