The Cornell Connection: Becoming Ready For The Real World

Cornell “Hotelies” in front of Statler Hall

As I start my final semester at Cornell, my attention has shifted from the daily routine of classes to preparing for my career. Instead of thinking about enrollment, my GPA, or spring break plans, I am researching apartment leases in my post-grad city and looking for alumni networking events.

This shift should be intimidating. However, all I feel is excitement for what my next chapter holds. While I know that the move from college to career will be an adjustment, I also realize that my time at the Nolan School of Hotel Administration has more than prepared me for the challenges that lie ahead.

JCB 20200218 Hotel MMH Bermuda Class Groups
Master Class with Robert J. Kwortnik Students meet in groups to brainstorm business plan ideas for a hotel in Bermuda


In my previous article, I discussed how the Nolan School’s guest lectures from industry leaders provide inspiration through real life experience and knowledge. However, it is the tangible tools we’re exposed to at Nolan that allows us to put that inspiration to use. From my experience during job interviews, internships, and networking events, I’ve been able to glean just how critical and unique the Nolan “real-world” preparation is.

Of course, like any business school, our program covers the basics of finance and accounting, marketing, and human resources. Cornell excels at not only teaching business concepts, but also provides meaningful examples of how those concepts manifest in a professional setting. We don’t just learn the definitions and move on; we dive deep into how to turn knowledge into marketable skills. I’ve found on numerous occasions that what I’ve learned in my courses has a direct connection to professional challenges I’ve encountered during internships.

For example, in my Hospitality Development class, our professor assigned us a site analysis and competitive set assignment for a local Ithaca hotel project. The report included uncovering information on zoning, environmental conditions, site visibility, and proximity to hotel demand generators. Two months later, I was conducting a similar analysis for an industrial real estate development during my sophomore year summer internship. Despite my professional inexperience with both real estate development and the industrial market, I was not intimidated by the assignment. I not only had the baseline familiarity with the various topics I was researching, but I already had direct practice with applying that knowledge.

In my Introduction to Real Estate Course, alumni provided information and initial financial modeling for a real-life case-study on a hotel property. Our student teams then projected out cash flow statements and estimate financial returns. Months later in my junior year summer internship, my capstone project involved an almost identical analysis, where I had to construct a financial model for a potential investment. I remember explaining to fellow interns how grateful I was to have had that initial exposure to these concepts at Cornell. Interns from other universities were surprised — and almost envious — that their own classes never moved beyond conceptual information.

Kyra Roach in front of a Cornell class


Equally important to the “hard” skills of calculations and analysis, however, are the more intangible attributes I have picked up during my time at Nolan. While I’ve never taken a class called “Working in Teams” or “Networking 101,” these types of interpersonal skills and training are major takeaways from my time at Cornell.

For example, during my summer internship, all the interns were jointly assigned basic research for an investment memo. Unfortunately, each of us had different opinions on the viability of the investment and were struggling to synthesize our ideas. I was eager to impress my bosses and reluctant to sacrifice my own idea. However, the numerous group projects I have completed at the Nolan School had prepared me for the nuances of team assignments. I was able to compromise with my teammates, accepting a different direction for our project in order to present a more cohesive memo.

Another large, yet unofficial, part of our Cornell education is networking. Cornell students outside the Nolan School joke about how half of the Hotelie calendar seems to be attending coffee chats and networking events. While Hotelie social events may seem trivial from an outsider’s perspective, these are vital moments where Nolan students learn how to communicate with new people and form relationships.

Cornell online class photo


I have directly benefitted from these experiences. After graduation, I will be working for a Hotelie-led hospitality real estate company. The success of my interview was largely determined by social compatibility with the company. I joked with each of my interviewers about Cornell winters and Hotelie traditions. I learned about the company barbeque and promised to bring some of my vegetarian dishes. Even in the intimidating environment of an interview, I was able to use my social skills to form connections, and ultimately secure the position.

The Nolan School naturally has all sorts of career services, such as resume reviews, weekly job posting emails, career fairs, and mock interviews that help us to secure the job. However, it is our curriculum that teaches us industry leading skills to keep and then succeed in those jobs. What makes Hotelies marketable to companies is also what makes us promotable. In this way, being set up for long-term success is truly what distinguishes the Nolan program.

Nolan alumnus Ted Teng has often spoken about how Nolan equips students and alumni with a vast toolbox of skills and knowledge. Mr. Teng explained that what might feel inconsequential as an undergrad actually prepares us to tackle all sorts of issues and challenges across several industries. As I find myself fast approaching my graduation in May, I am not worried or nervous for what the “real world” will throw at me. Instead, because of the Nolan School, all I feel is ready.

Kyra Roach is a rising senior in the Hotel School and has used her time at Cornell to explore multiple facets of hospitality. She has worked at the Statler Hotel’s Leadership Development Program, interned at Four Seasons, and recently developed a passion for real estate investment and is now pursuing a real estate minor with a concentration in development. During her time at Cornell, she has served as the Student Assistant to the Dean, Executive Vice President for the Cornell Hotel Society-Collegiate Chapter, the Executive Vice President of the Hotel School Ambassadors, and the Executive Chef of the 96th Annual Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC). Kyra will be working with Chartres Lodging as an Analyst upon graduation in May.

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