A Place at the Head of the Hospitality Table

NCC Hospitality Grads Hold Leadership Positions in the Industry

Myra Saturen,

From four-course dinners served on china, to passed hors d’oeuvres, to food station buffets, stadium dining, and beverage service, alumni of Northampton Community College’s (NCC) hospitality program now serve in leadership positions with Levy, a major hospitality company whose nationwide clients include ArtsQuest, in Bethlehem. Levy is the exclusive food and beverage provider for the arts organization. NCC students work alongside ArtsQuest and Levy hospitality experts.

Students in the Convention Services and Catering course are required to complete 32 hours of LiveLab, designed to give them management and service experience through management-guided participation in an event. In addition to ArtsQuest events, the lab includes the twice- yearly on-campus Chef in Residence cooking demonstration and dinner and NCC trustee occasions and others, some catered by Sodexo.

Educational opportunities with ArtsQuest and Levy came about through Assistant Professor Rebecca Heid’s decade-long professional connection with Susan Drexinger, vice president of hospitality and food services at ArtsQuest. “Through some brainstorming, Susan and I found that the events at ArtsQuest are a great learning lab for our students,” Heid says. She adds that Levy employees are fantastic with the students.

“Each student took the Convention Services and Catering course to obtain their associate degree in applied science degree in hospitality management and understands the importance of receiving experience in the industry,” Heid says. “Experience with ArtsQuest and with Levy is a huge resume builder, and the students have an opportunity to work with well known, large companies in the Lehigh Valley.”

Drexinger says that the NCC students are essential parts of event success. These events include the “Night of Heroes” and a Morning Call awards event, among numerous others.

The Levy company is pleased to work with NCC students. “The students I’ve worked with are eager, curious and very hardworking,” says Martin Durbin, director of operations for Levy. “It is a pleasure to see such a great program and to help introduce students into the field. They will always be welcome here.”

Alumni credit NCC, ArtsQuest and Levy for their successes. “The LiveLab prepared me to be professional, outspoken and taught me how to communicate with my team, as well as the teams at ArtsQuest,” says Brianna Hull ‘18, meeting and event hospitality assistant with ArtsQuest. “But most importantly, it allowed me to get a glimpse of how ArtsQuest runs their events and manages their catering company. It's different being behind the scenes, you get to see how an event comes together from start to finish. I always knew that there was a process, and my classes always prepared me to understand that an event has a beginning before it can even happen.”

She values her leadership responsibilities. “From contracts to invoices and everything in between, there’s always a part of me that has to lead on something, whether it be as simple as asking a question or setting up meetings to working on events, the day of, and assisting the team to make sure everything runs smoothly and facing obstacles that come our way.” She is appreciative of the NCC professors who prepared her for the job she has today.

NCC alumna and board member Nicole Bucha is a catering supervisor for Levy, overseeing events at ArtsQuest. In this leadership role, she directs her wait staff team at the Musikfest Café, proms, weddings, and corporate events.

“The LiveLab experience played a big part in making me feel more confident in the daily tasks I must complete in the industry,” she says. “I have felt and always will feel grateful for my time at NCC. It has given me countless opportunities.

In addition to working through Levy, Heid also partners with ArtsQuest in their dining room operations. Students are required to attend a BEO meeting (Banquet Event Order). At the meetings they learn about the different room designs and the multiple departments that need to be involved to create an event.

And more exciting developments are underway. During the Fall semester, students are assisting ArtsQuest with the Night of Heroes Event and another gala. Moreover, discussions are being held about a project-based assignment to assist students in understanding the sales end of the hospitality industry. In this way, students will graduate from the program with sales experience, event experience, management experience, and certifications.

“Our relationship with ArtsQuest just continues to get stronger, and we are thrilled to have them assist in the student learning experience,” Heid says.