|Cal Poly Pomona students placed second at the STR Student Market Study Competition|
I was in New York City (NYC) over the Veterans Day weekend for the HX: The Hotel Experience 2019, one of the most important trade shows in the lodging industry. Similar to last year’s trade show, the HX 2019 also entailed four components, including HX: The Marketplace, HX: The Conference, Boutique Design New York, and the STR (Smith Travel Research) Student Market Study Competition.
STR is the leading data analytics provider for the lodging industry. Since its debut in 2015, the STR Student Market Study Competition (the STR Competition hereafter) has received significant attention from the hospitality programs around the world.
This year, over 20 students from the Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona traveled to NYC for HX 2019. Moreover, six of them also participated in the STR Competition for the first time.
In the end, the Cal Poly Pomona team won the 2nd Prize among the 25 competing colleges and universities. The other winning teams include Michigan State (1st Prize) and Virginia Tech (3rd Prize).
I was fortunate to work with the Cal Poly Pomona team as one of their faculty advisors. I was able to witness their journey from the first-time participants to the 2nd place team.
The following is a report about the experience of the team. I am hoping this report will offer additional insights for the students who also want to participant in the STR Competition, as well as the advisors who will be coaching the students.
The Cal Poly Pomona team
The six members in the Cal Poly Pomona team include (in alphabetical order of the last name): Emily Fedorchek, Heather Kingsbury, Devon Lilley, Sean Mayor, Marissa Robledo, and Natalie Thé. Their initials will be used when quoting their comments.
The learning experience of the STR Competition
Students spent two semesters preparing for the STR Competition. Students studied and gained both the Certification in Hotel Industry Analytics (CHIA) and the Certification in Advanced Hospitality and Tourism Analytics (CAHTA) in the spring semester. Then, in the fall semester, they began analyzing the STR data for the competition in NYC. The continuous practice was critical in their learning experience.
As we prepared for the competition, we kept in mind that success is never final. We practiced consistently, making sure that every piece of our presentation was polished and picture-perfect.” (S.M.)
“(In the spring semester),
Skills acquired from the process
Students suggested the process helped them acquired skills in data analytics, story-telling, data-visualization, and teamwork. For example,
“I learned how to use numbers and data with a high degree of complexity to present a story that is engaging and easily understood.” (S.M.)
“I learned how to collaborate with my team members successfully and accept constructive feedback.” (M.R.)
Linking the STR Competition with students’ college experience
The learning process during the STR Competition added invaluable experience to their student life in college. For instance,
“Participating in the competition enriched my college experience by challenging me to step outside of my comfort zone. I also learned a different aspect of the industry that has not been offered yet in the classroom.” (M.R.)
Linking the STR Competition with students’ career goal
Not all hospitality students see themselves working in data analytics after they graduate with a hospitality degree. Still, the preparation of the STR Competition can be particularly helpful for those who are interested in a career beyond room or restaurant operations.
“Through preparing for the competition, I was able to gain and develop skills that would be useful for a future career regarding numbers in the hospitality industry. I have always found myself very interested and enjoying the classes at The Collins College that involved numbers, such as Hospitality Finance and Accounting. However, when expressing this interest to recruiters, many of them told me that positions involving numbers required specific degrees, which hospitality management was not one. This competition gave me the opportunity to work with real data and apply analytical skills that is specific to the hospitality industry. Further, it opened my eyes to future career paths within the industry I did not know existed.” (N.T.)
“As someone looking to get into the event industry, this competition has given me a greater perspective on how event venues, especially convention centers, CVBs, and hotels all play into the success and the reputation of a market in terms of group travel.” (DL)
“I can confidently say that the competition will help me achieve my career goal because anything is possible with dedication and passion.” (M.R.)
The challenges and the remedies
This year’s competition can be especially challenging for the Cal Poly Pomona team because it was the first time that the school ever organized a team to compete. As a result, students may need extra help from their advisors.
“The challenge of being the first group within our school to compete meant we had to pave our own way to the finals without having previous teams or PowerPoints to learn from. We overcame this challenge by starting from square one, and then built our way up through constant practices, feedback, and revisions.” (S.M.)
“Learning how to analyze data was the most challenging lesson of the competition. Fortunately, our mentors helped me overcome this challenge by taking the time out of their busy schedules to sit down with me and help me think outside the box.” (M.R.)
Factors contributing to the success of the team
As their faculty advisor myself, I believe their success was the result of the team efforts from the students, the faculty/staff, alumni, and even the Board of Advisors of the College. Everyone shared the same goal and kept an open mind for feedback and suggestions. Everyone made a strong commitment to the team. Students stated:
“The factors that contributed to the success of the team were the individual members’ eagerness to learn and being receptive to feedback. Everyone on the team had never been exposed to a hotel market study prior to joining the team, but their excitement to learn something new and take on challenges contributed immensely to the team successfully creating a hotel market study. Additionally, each member being receptive to feedback allowed the team to constantly improve the presentation and performance to create a presentation we were very proud of. Another factor that contributed to the success of the team was the incredible support we had from our advisors. Their expertise and guidance gave us direction and clarity on how to improve our analysis and presentation.” (N.T.)
“Leveraging our strengths contributes to the success of the team because those strengths will make up for some of the imperfections we may carry individually.” (S.M.)
Advice and suggestions for the participants in future competition
In the end, I asked the team what suggestions they would make to the students who want to participate in the future STR Competition. They recommended:
“I would tell any student that has the slightest desire to do this competition to go for it! Many students have only had operations experience in the hospitality industry, which may cause them to be hesitant to participate as they have not been exposed to anything like this before. However, this experience is very unique and is very beneficial to anyone anticipating to have a career in the hospitality industry. You will learn immensely and develop a new way of thinking, which only makes you an even more well-rounded, stronger leader of the industry. Everyone on the team works together to acquire new skills, and it is very rewarding to see how far you have come when you are on stage, presenting in front of the judges.” (N.T.)
“Don't take the feedback personally. Having an open mind and positive outlook will only benefit your personal growth and the experience of the team. Try to make efforts to get to know one another to solidify the unity much earlier in the process. Continue to support one another through the good and the bad. You're all in the competition together. Don't make it a competition among each other.” (M.R.)
“Being willing to listen to each other.” (H.K.)
“I recommend them to start working together as a team early on so that they can strategize a plan to utilize everyone's strengths during the presentation.” (S.M.)
The result truly came from a team effort. The other advisors who also worked diligently with the team are Dr. Margie Ferree Jones, Mr. Hank Jones, and Ms. Carolina Sanchez. Additionally, Mr. Bruce Baltin, Mr. Troy L. Jones, Ms. Tiffany Jassel, Ms. Chia-Ju (Kate) Ko, Mr. Aarick (Eric) Sepulveda, and other faculty/staff members at the Collins College provided valuable feedback to the students’ work and made critical contributions to their success.
Have your school or yourself participated in the STR Competition before? How was your experience? What suggestions will you make to the future participants?
Note: This post is also available on Multibriefs.com.
|Boutique Design New York 2019 #BDNY|