University of Wisconsin-Stout

Feb. 17, 2011

It has been a very good first year for the University of Wisconsin-Stout collegiate chapter of Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International.

The chapter formed last fall, and last week it won the collegiate chapter of the year at the HSMAI annual leadership conference in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

On hand to accept the Frank W. Berkman Best of the Best Award were three members of the chapter: Whitney Merrick, of Eagan, Minn.; Nick Molitor, of Apple Valley, Minn.; and Jacob Youngblood, of Woodbury, Minn. They are hotel, restaurant and tourism management majors.

Merrick and Molitor are chapter co-presidents. Youngblood is president-elect.

A minimum of 15 students are required to form a student chapter. After less than six months, UW-Stout has 27 members.

“We have been working very hard over the last few months to set up the framework for this organization, and we have done so with great success,” Merrick said. “We have 27 members and we are continuing to grow. I think that this is the main reason we were given this award, based on the successful establishment of the chapter.”

Merrick and Molitor also believe the award was based on chapter activities, including hosting a panel discussion on jobs and internships and participating in telemarketing sales blitzes for two Twin Cities hotels.

“We wanted to establish an organization with a huge focus on preparing students for the professional world. HSMAI has provided us a way to reach beyond the classroom and into the industry itself. We have been able to connect with many people in the industry,” Molitor said.

Merrick and Molitor were instrumental in helping form the chapter after the idea was proposed by Garth Peterson, a 1996 UW-Stout graduate. Peterson is past president and remains on the board of the HSMAI Minnesota professional chapter, based in Bloomington.

“We met with students and they saw the value of the organization, with access to professionals and networking,” said Peterson, sales director for IDeaS Revenue Solutions, of Bloomington, Minn., which serves the hotel and resort industry.

The three students at the conference returned home with potential job offers, Peterson said. “These three have seen an immediate value in being part of HSMAI,” Peterson said.

HSMAI has about 6,000 members worldwide, 39 professional chapters in North America and about 10 collegiate chapters in the U.S.

Peterson also has worked with UW-Stout to provide IDeaS revenue management software and training content for professors and students in the hotel, restaurant and tourism management program.

The faculty adviser at UW-Stout for the HSMAI chapter is Bob Davies, a professor in the School of Hospitality Leadership.

UW-Stout offers a degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management, with seven concentrations. It is the only such degree offered in the UW System and is part of the university’s three-year degree option.

For more information, contact Davies at 715-232-1480 or