Cheerful chatter filled the BYU–Hawaii Hub and ping-pong balls were in full action as students made complimentary root-beer floats while pursuing networking opportunities in hospitality and tourism.
“Would you expect an activity that is boring for a hospitality event? It would not reflect the organization’s name if the event was not fun. In hospitality we focus on the experience. Part of the experience of serving people is so they will remember you. It’s all about connection,” said Mark Camiso, a senior in hospitality and tourism management from the Philippines.
The event was held by the Ho’okipa Society. The society is designed for students to excel in academics and network for the future, explained Camiso. Ho’okipa means “exploration” and students strive to start their careers while seeking prime networks from society events.
According to Steve Lundgren, HTM manager and adjunct instructor, the hospitality field is meant for those who are social. “When you look at the nature of our business, it’s all about service and engaging with people. It’s a social business and when you look around at the students, it fits the needs for many of them to be social with the biggest desire to serve.”
Giving his advice Drexlerlee Leduna, a BYUH alumnus who majored in HTM from the Philippines, said, “Put yourself out there. In this industry you have to be smart and make sure you can be in the spotlight. I work very hard and I’ve done my best to excel in academics, but more than anything it’s about connecting with people. Hospitality is not about yourself, it’s about the people you have a love for and to show you are sincere, you have to make them feel connected to the environment and place.”
Adding to Leduna’s comment, Keith Ferrin, former HTM experiential learning coordinator, said, “Networking is one of the most important things you can do. Friends open doors to more business and often create jobs for people they have not held yet want to work in. Living on this island and networking is world-renowned. If you get connected, you can travel all over the world.”
Leduna said he would encourage the students to have fun while meeting people. He believes this will help in networking and leave lasting impressions. “I loved making people happy and you have to be happy working in the industry.”
As an assistant manager at Pounders Restaurant in Hukilau Marketplace, he said the job position boosted his leadership skills to be an example and backbone. Leduna has worked in the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and said he learned about marketing and keeping people happy in the workplace, which has contributed to his success as a leading manager.
In reference to a former consultant, Leduna said, “‘In life we may not be able to buy happiness, but in this industry we can sell happiness.’ I want to get rid of the norm of how hard work is. Everywhere work is hard, but in hospitality it’s turning that around and focusing on the happiness possible.”
According to Camiso, the Ho’okipa Society hosts monthly events for networking and career exploration. Events include trips to the Big Island and Maui to meet managers in five star hotels and reach out to the local managers of the tourism community in the islands. Local businesses, such as Laie Palms Theaters and Delice Crepes at Hukilau Marketplace, sponsor raffles to support students.
According to Ferrin, there is a shortage of employees in businesses like hotels. He said those businesses are interested in students studying HTM. “After studying HTM, students become versatile marketers, finance consultants, and accountants. Many businesses who are familiar with BYUH students studying HTM are interested in recruiting them with experience of living in this island and internationally. It’s truly an amazing opportunity here.”
The HTM program is growing, according to Internship Coordinator Marla Lundgren. More than 36 countries are represented in 10 percent of the student body. This comprises the university’s demographic for the major. Lundgren said, “Above all, there are many opportunities in the Pacific and BYU–Hawaii is the only Church-endorsed university that offers this major.”
BYUH supports students who have received internships in their home countries. The school recognizes students who wish to advance their education in their majors, according to Lundgren. The university pays for the travel from Oahu to the student’s home country.
From networking experience, Camiso has not only gained friendships but also gained background and resources to support his pursuits in HTM studies. Camiso said just this semester he has saved $100 on books from a former student giving him the material needed. He added, “You have to learn to break the barrier.”
Leduna explained after serving his mission in the Philippines Angeles Mission, he learned the significance of love conveyed to others through service. However, the initial drive to serve a mission was studying HTM his first year at BYUH, when he felt impressed to serve a mission. In reflection of his experience, Leduna said the work is all about service and love for the people and work is essential.
Sam Merrill, a senior majoring in biology from Alaska, explained he chose HTM as a minor to combine the two subjects in his endeavors: tourism and sustainability. Merrill said living in Hawaii and focusing on both those subjects is a major advantage and blessing.