Emily Lorgé started her academic journey at TMCC as an elementary education major, but one day as she was waiting for her English 101 class to begin, an image of white sand beaches and the accompanying announcement that promoted the Hospitality and Tourism Management program flashed across the projection screen.
“I didn’t even know that was a thing,” Lorgé said. “Literally a lightbulb went off in my head. I was like—that’s it. That’s what I want to do. I’ve always had a passion for travel and a passion for people, and at that moment, my entire world changed.”
Lorgé, a self-described people-person who loves to travel, enrolled in the program’s introductory class where visions of possible futures including working as a cruise director on a cruise ship, or for a large resort like the Ritz Carlton as a director of guest experience seemed like they weren’t just faraway dreams. Instead, these were possibilities that Lorgé began to explore in HMD 101, An Introduction to Hospitality, a class designed to open students’ eyes to this unique and dynamic industry through a series of site visits and visiting guest speakers who are successful professionals in the field.
This past semester, students in the class conducted a site visit to the Peppermill to see their geothermal plant and learn more about sustainable practices. Every semester is different, however, because Vanina Coudriet, Instructor and Program Coordinator, tailors the class to what her students are interested in. This was something Lorgé appreciated.
“This didn’t feel like the normal college class,” said Lorgé, who was inspired by the professionals she met through the class who encouraged her to think outside of the box when it came to her career.
Working for Disneyland
Through her HMD 101 class, Lorgé met and was inspired by three women who came to the class to talk about their experience working at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino. “I thought it was really cool that they were all professionals and had really successful careers in this field. One of them gave me the advice to go to the Disney College program.”
It was advice Lorgé took to heart. In January-August of 2019, she completed the Disney College Program, which grants on-the-job experience to college students who are interested in working in a Disney park or resort. While in the program, she worked as a cashier in Toontown, but also tested new rides before they opened to the public.
When asked to describe her experience, she said: “I got to go to Disneyland every single day for free! Just imagine the best moment of your life—that’s what it was for every single day I was there.”
Lorgé completed her associate degree in December 2020 at TMCC and will continue in the Hospitality and Tourism field at UNLV where she will work on completing her Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management. Beyond that, she said, the sky is the limit.
“I feel like a lot of times college kids get stuck in a box of 'I’m going to do business' or 'I’m going to do some sort of science,'” Lorgé said. “But with hospitality, literally the sky’s the limit. There are so many jobs or careers, and so many things you can do. It’s literally a career where you can follow your dreams.”
Creating Customer Experiences
In her final semester, Lorgé took a class that captured what she loves about this major—and career path—that she has chosen. In an independent study called “Facilitating the Customer Experience”, Lorgé and Coudriet explored what is at the heart of any career in the Hospitality and Tourism industry: creating an experience that a customer can never forget.
The independent study was guided by the text Designing Experiences published by the Columbia Business School. Lorgé was responsible for reading chapters and creating presentations based on the material she read. Then, she and Coudriet would discuss and reflect on the material, exploring how the ideas Lorgé presented could be implemented in various aspects of the hospitality industry.
“This is exactly what I want to do,” said Lorgé. “I want to create things and make people happy.”
Even though this is an industry that’s been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic, Lorgé nonetheless is applying her new knowledge in the workplace: she currently works as a hostess, cashier, and food runner at The Cheesecake Factory Restaurant in Reno.
“Before this job, I had no interest in being a leader or taking on a management position. But I’m starting to realize the impact that I can have on the people around me,” said Lorgé, who applied the skills she learned in the hospitality program to plan the restaurant’s holiday party.
“I love my job so much, I would do it for free,” she said. And then she paused, laughing. “Well, maybe.”
Why Consider a Degree in Hospitality and Tourism
Do you love to travel? Meet and connect with other people? Do you like vacations, resorts, hotels, cruise ships, and restaurants? If so, you may want to consider taking HMD 101, Introduction to Hospitality. In addition to serving as an introduction to the program, the class also counts as an elective for other majors at the college.
In the very least, the class is guaranteed to be interesting...and fun!
“If you don’t know what you want to do, this is a great major to dip your toes into and open your eyes to see all the possibilities of what you could do if you go into that field,” said Lorgé. “It’s definitely for anyone who doesn’t want to be stuck in the ‘normal college box.’ It opens the door to so many different opportunities.”