Students from Berks Hospitality management program.

From Students to Chefs: Hospitality Management and Food Services partner at Berks

Hospitality management students are learning about the principles of food production and service management in a living laboratory.

At Penn State Berks, hospitality management students are learning about the principles of food production and service management in a living laboratory through a unique collaboration between the college’s Hospitality Management baccalaureate degree program and the Office of Housing and Food Services. Faculty from the degree and Food Services staff have partnered to offer HM 330: Food Production and Service Management.

The course, now in its second year, is limited to 12 students — generally sophomores and juniors — to ensure that each participant has a comprehensive hands-on experience. The goal is to teach students to apply management principles to food production and service in the daily operation of a campus food-service facility. During the course, students rotate through management and staff roles where they work in Tully’s, the campus dining center, at various stations including the pizza, deli, grill, display and entrée stations. Students also work on food preparation and catering orders, under supervision of kitchen staff.

“The collaboration between Housing and Food Services and Hospitality Management has been rewarding,” stated Jennifer Wakemen, coordinator of the hospitality management degree program. “Students get to work one-on-one with the chefs, and learn about cooking methods, equipment, food ordering and service. Lectures are coordinated with the labs so that students are exposed to theory in the lecture and execution in the lab. Students develop a different point of view of food services when they experience it from the back of the house, rather than as a customer.”   

Rosaura Orozco, sophomore in hospitality management, has found the course to be valuable in gaining insight into careers in the field.

“HM 330 gives us access to how the back of the house of our industry operates," she explained. "This program is very enjoyable and informative experience. We are able to learn side-by-side with an executive chef; I could not ask for anything better.”

Students from Berks Hospitality management program.

Along with hospitality management faculty members, Housing and Food Services staff teach several components of the course. Food safety and sanitation training is taught by Linda MacDuff, assistant director; food ordering and inventory is taught by Tom Henry, manager; and hands-on culinary development is taught by Chef Joe Ertel, managing chef. 

“Our Penn State Berks Housing and Food Services team is thrilled to team up with the Hospitality Management program and offer students this unique opportunity to receive hands-on in-depth training of both the front- and back-of-the-house operations, which are essential to be successful in management,” stated Jonathan Kukta, director of Housing and Food Services, Penn State Berks and Schuylkill campuses.

“One of [Penn State] President Eric Barron’s six imperatives is engaging students," said Kukta. "The collaboration between Housing and Food Services and the Hospitality Management program does exactly that: It takes the learning from the classroom and creates engaged scholarship opportunities through the course with the hands-on lab in Tully’s dining center.”