Thirty students in the College of Human Sciences Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management made sure things went off without a hitch for distinguished guests to enjoy the 28th Annual Hospitality Gala at The Hotel at Auburn University the evening of April 20.
The annual Hospitality Gala signals the conclusion of a semester’s long worth of hard work, planning and dedication as attendees enjoyed a festive night complete with wine and hors d’oeuvres, a formal four course meal dinner featuring world-renowned chefs and winemakers, a live and silent auction and more in what has been the hospitability program’s signature fundraising event since 1992.
For the 30 students enrolled in the Hospitality Gala class, the planning for the 28th Annual Hospitality began months ago in January as students were broken down into teams consisting of décor and design, auction, operations and marketing and registration.
Lily Wright, a senior in hospitality management with a concentration in events, was part of the marketing team and participated in the Gala for the first time.
“Leading up to the Gala these last few weeks I’ve been doing most of the social media so a lot of story posts, regular posts that we have go out for vendors, winemakers, chefs and I’ve done some of the posts on the screens in the Rane Center,” Wright said. “We’ve worked a lot with Caravan the hotel’s social media group but this week, it’s been a lot of getting registration ready and helping the operations team with set up and the live auction.”
Another main focus of the Hospitality Gala is recognizing an honoree who has demonstrated excellence in the hospitality field. This year’s honoree for the Horst Schulze Award for Excellence in Hospitality is Auberge Resorts Collection President and CEO Craig Reid.
Reid is described as a dynamic hospitality industry leader respected for his expertise in hotel development, management and service excellence. Since joining Auberge in 2014, Reid has grown the Auberge Resorts Collection from six properties to 25 one-of-a-kind hotels and resorts globally. Prior to joining Auberge, Reid held a noteworthy career with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts that spanned more than three decades.
Prior to accepting the Horst Schulze Award for Excellence in Hospitality, Reid took time to tour the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center and called the integration of students and commercial entities remarkable while also adding he was humbled to accept the award.
“It’s very humbling and I’m flattered not just for me but rather for our team and it’s a recognition of our team effort,” Reid said. “In fact, I think part of the connection to the school and to Horst is that we have many leaders who Horst mentored and they’re part of our company. It’s a real privilege and honor to be here.”
While the students in the Hospitality Gala class hope to one day reach the level of success Reid has accomplished in the hospitality field, they are already gaining significant and valuable experience before even graduating from Auburn University.
“Leading up to tonight our whole job was to pick the linens, the flowers and floral arrangements along with the design choices,” said Gretchen Wensuc, a senior in event management who worked on the design team. “It was all on us to do and we did that months in advance. From Monday until today we put together flower arrangements and made sure everything looked good. The day of the Gala we have just been working on final touches and making sure everything looked the way we envisioned it. You can’t really put into words how great this experience has been.”
In addition to gaining plenty of experience, students are also learning to work as a team by working with a number of different vendors such as B&B Beverage Management, Tori Brinson Designs for florals, vendors for the silent and live auctions and more.
For Wright, her experience working with the Gala and for B&B Beverage Management as an intern has already led to a job opportunity when she graduates in May.
“I accepted a position to work with B&B Beverage Management and I interned there but I’ll be working there full-time starting right after graduation,” Wright said. “What I’m going into is mostly the beverage side of things so setting up the bar, what allocation is needed, what a guest wants and their vision so I’m seeing that here tonight since B&B is one of the sponsors. This Gala has also prepared me if I ever want to go into the design route of planning events.”
The Hospitality Gala is student-led and serves as the capstone project for students pursuing the event management track and Caitlin Barry, a senior in event management, had some advice for future students who will take part in the 29th annual Hospitality Gala next year.
“I would definitely say come in with an open mind and be adaptable,” Barry said. “This class is going to be doing things on the go and doing things on the fly. We’re working for a public university and planning a fundraising event with their rules and regulations but also working with other vendors that aren’t on the same timeline as you but that’s all about the event planning business. You’re working in a real-life situation and using your event background and all of these planning events that you’ve done in your undergrad classes you’re bringing it to fruition now at the Gala.”
For more information on The Hospitality Gala, visit thehospitalitygala.org