Purdue Northwest students win first place in hospitality and tourism competition

PNW graduate students recently show off their first-place plaque. Pictured, from left, Richard Chambers, Madison Walker, David Arredondo, Yeonju Bae, Carolyn Sandrick and Paul Money.


Hospitality and tourism help drive economic development throughout the world. Analyzing actual data from one of those markets led to a first place win for six Purdue Northwest graduate students at a recent competition in New York City.

This was the third year a PNW team entered the internationally-recognized 2017 Smith Travel Research (STR) Market Study Competition, which gives leading hospitality and tourism schools from around the word the opportunity to analyze actual market research and data and interpret the story of a specific market, said Wendy Kasche, interim assistant dean in the College of Business.

"The opportunity to work with real data and present before industry professionals has provided a rare and invaluable experience for our students," she said.

Kasche said she chose Denver, Colorado as the specific market for students in the PNW White Lodging School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) to analyze for this year’s competition.

"The teams gave a 30-minute presentation to industry professionals. There were 11 graduate teams that started. Five teams were in the finalist round," said Kasche.

The winning PNW graduate student team included David Arredondo of Munster; Hammond residents Yeonju Bae and Richard Chambers; Paul Money of Porter; Dyer resident Carolyn Sandrick and Madison Carpenter-Walker of Crown Point.

All the team members are pursuing their MBA degrees and several will receive their degrees at the Dec. 9 commencement ceremonies.

Sandrick said the school’s previous performances at STR competitions led to “our redemption goal. We would accept nothing short of first place.”

The team worked on the project for three months, putting in collectively 50 hours, Sandrick said, adding that each team member had a specific part of the presentation to research.

“This was a huge success for the school,” she said. “We were the only regional campus of a university to be in the top five. Michigan State, Kansas State, Texas Tech and the University of Missouri were the other finalists.”

“Denver outpaces most U.S. markets,” said Carpenter-Walker about what the group learned. “We looked at supply and demand – how many rooms were actually filled. Our judges were a marketing executive and a financial analyst.”

Chambers said his portion of the research focused on the reasons people visit Denver, including the attractions during different times of the year.

“Four of the six of us had a hospitality background,” he said. “I took the class as an elective. It is a great way to be introduced to the area of study.”

“Our students worked extremely hard analyzing the Denver hotel market,” said Mike Flannery, director of the White Lodging School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “Their insightful presentation demonstrated their excellent research and analytical skills in a very competitive industrial environment.”

Winning first place in the competition netted PNW a commemorative plaque and a $1,000 cash prize, Kasche said.

“That money will be used in the hospitality program for students,” she said.

The first-place recognition includes a commemorative plaque and a cash prize. Additionally, the participating students’ names will be added into the STR national database for future internship and mentorship opportunities.

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