The Courtyard Newark at the University of Delaware to celebrate tenth anniversary this November
Dec 23, 2014 10:06PM
By Kerigan Butt
One thousand students and counting. That is how many people in the Hotel Restaurant and Institutional Management Program
(HRIM) at the University of Delaware have completed their lodging management training at the Courtyard Newark at the University of Delaware, since the hotel opened ten years ago. The hotel team will celebrate its tenth anniversary on Nov. 15.
Named the “Lodging Practicum Module,” the program was uniquely developed by HRIM faculty and hotel leadership, and has become an integral part of a planned semester for HRIM juniors. Students are fully integrated into all aspects of the hotel operation for the semester in the “experiential learning” at the hotel, where they spend 140 hours working closely with hotel staff and “real” guests. Learning every job in the hotel, from guest-room housekeeper to general manager. At the same time, the students would take four lodging-related academic classes in a classroom, named the Marriott Center for Hospitality and Tourism, located in the hotel. No other hospitality education program has ever attempted this level of immersion in an operating hotel, and the program has attracted international attention and praise for its success.
The UD Hotel Restaurant and Institutional Management Program recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, and for many years different proposals for the addition of a hotel were considered, but the time was not right. A hotel feasibility study conducted in late 1999 demonstrated that guest room demand has grown to the point where a hotel could be justified.
It was decided by then-President David Roselle and the UD Board of Trustees to locate the hotel on a vacant parcel of UD land on the Laird Campus, adjacent to the University’s Clayton Hall Conference Center, where the hotel could also provide guest room accommodations to guests of the Conference Center. An agreement was reached with the Shaner Hotel Group of State College, Pa., and Marriott International to build and operate a 126-room Marriott Courtyard Hotel on that site. The hotel grand opening was Nov. 21, 2004 with Marriott Chairman, J. Willard Marriott cutting the opening ribbon. UD hired Managing Director Bill Sullivan and a very experienced team of hospitality leadership professionals who would not only operate the hotel but also would be “teachers” for the HRIM students in the program. Sullivan had previously managed the Hotel du Pont and related hospitality operations for Dupont, and was an adjunct faculty member in the HRIM program and at the similar program at Widener University in Chester, Pa.
Since opening, the hotel has been profitable and has excelled in guest service, winning numerous service excellence awards from Marriott for each of the ten years of operation, and in 2008 was rated the second best Courtyard for guest service in the world. Excellence in service, as rated by surveys of hotel guests, is the result of a great hotel team and the excellent energy and skills of the student-interns as they work together for guest service excellence.
As part of dedication to the local tourism community, Hotel and Conference Center leadership engaged with other Newark-area hotels to form the Destination Newark Hotel Partnership to encourage group travel and sports events for Newark to develop new sources of citywide business for the Newark area hotels, local shops, and restaurants. They won several awards from the Delaware Tourism Office for these efforts, and then took a leadership role in the formation of the Delaware Sports Commission. The Hotel leadership engaged as well with local charities and partnered with Delaware Autism, UD Center for Disabilities Studies and the Delaware School for Deaf to provide skill training, jobs and social integration for people with various disabilities. The hotel was nationally recognized for its Merry Otters program that invites families with autistic children to use the hotel pool and meeting space for family outings. The hotel has received numerous community awards for leadership with tourism development, service to the disabled community and other non-profits.
The hotel plays an important role in UD, hosting many visitors to campus, and developing a successful Very Important Parents (VIP) program for parents of over 5,900 UD students for lodging needs in Newark.
In 2014, the hotel completed a full renovation of guest rooms and public spaces, this included the addition of the Bistro with Starbucks products and a full service lobby bar. A lovely landscaped patio area provides a great venue for seasonal dining, entertainment and banquet events. Recently, the hotel hosted an event that raised funds for the Newark Police K-9 team, attended by over 200 guests. Hotel dining, with a special recipe for crab cakes has earned the hotel quite a local reputation for fine cuisine and service.
Marriott International has been an exceptional supporter of the hotel since it’s inception. Marriott provided initial funding for the Marriott Center for Hospitality and Tourism, the classroom located in the hotel and recently agreed to donate $560,000 for a new state-of-the-art classroom addition to the hotel. Marriott Chairman, J. Willard Marriott, came to the grand opening of the hotel in 2004 and came back again in October of 2013 to visit the hotel and address students of the UD Lerner College of Business and Economics (HRIM is a part of this College).
Having educated over a thousand future hospitality leaders, the future is bright for the hotel and the HRIM program. Recent renovations to the hotel and the student run Vita Nova restaurant clearly demonstrate the commitment by UD Administration to keep the UD hospitality program as one of the learning programs in the world, where excellence in academic and experiential learning come together to prepare future industry leaders.
Visit the Courtyard Newark at the University of Delaware at 400 David Hollowell Drive on the Laird Campus of UD, www.udel.edu/hotel and Vita Nova located in the Trabant Student Center at http://www.lerner.udel.edu/departments/hrim/vita-nova.