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By Lesli Tathum

The Dart Hospitality Training Programme: A Q&A with Lynn University’s Katrina Carter-Tellison

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After the successful completion of a pilot Hospitality Training Programme last year, Dart has committed to the programme's second year this summer. To further enhance the programme, Dart has partnered with Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida and will kick off a two-week intensive training course with the university and the training programme’s newest cohort started 1 August 2023. Caymanian and Chief Academic Officer at Lynn University, Katrina Carter-Tellison, shares a little bit about what this relationship looks like.

LT: Tell us a bit about Lynn University and your role?  

KCT: Lynn University is a small, independent institution in Boca Raton, Florida. We have about 3,500 students. I think one of the things that makes us distinct is our level of diversity and international population; we have over 100 countries represented. It’s really cool when you drive into the university and there are flags for each student in residence. When I came first for an interview, I found my flag. Although it has a small school vibe, it has big school opportunities. We have everything from an extraordinary world-class conservatory to a college of aeronautics with 11 aeroplanes and everything in between. 

I’m the Vice President for Academic Affairs or Chief Academic Officer at Lynn University, which means I oversee all of the academic operations – the six colleges, the faculty, the Deans, everything from the library to study abroad to the registrar and academic advising. 


LT: Lynn University offers a hospitality management degree. Can you share a bit about Lynn’s programme and what it offers? 

KCT: Hospitality is one of those majors for us that attracts a lot of diverse and international students.  

One of the things we like to do with this programme is give them a solid academic business foundation and make sure that they are prepared when they enter a hospitality-type industry. We still want to ensure that they have a level of excitement about this field. This field impacts and influences so much and so many other industries. We want to make sure that students recognise what that is, so we are 1) academically preparing them and 2) helping them to see that hospitality isn’t narrow; it is an incredibly broad industry.  

If you hear people talk about the “fill-in-the-blank” experience: the patient experience, which is healthcare intersecting with hospitality. The student experience, that’s higher education intersecting with hospitality. We are helping students see that this is a huge and broad industry with opportunities that can take you anywhere. 


LT: How does this tie into what’s being done with the Dart Hospitality Training Programme? 

KCT: We want to bring as much content and solid academic preparation as possible to those students for their workplace training. We want to make sure that when they go to their various rotations, they have a good foundation, but we also want to bring some energy and excitement to the field. We want to ensure that they understand that this is different from any other job; you have unique opportunities here that you might not have had if you worked at a bank, law firm or accounting firm.  

There is a level of excitement that I think will really connect with this generation. We chose a specific faculty member to lead this because she has that [energy]. 


LT: What will the relationship look like with Lynn University and the Dart Hospitality Programme? 

KCT: Right now, we’re in the infancy of it, but I think one thing that I can tell you is that both organisations have a tremendous commitment to wanting to see young people develop in this field.  

We recognise the reputation of hospitality does need some shoring up and we feel that we can come together to work on that and really help young people see the future and how bright it is for them. 


LT: How will participants in the programme benefit from receiving instruction from an accredited institution like Lynn University? 

KCT: The most important thing is that we have an academic foundation; we have a Ph.D. in hospitality, providing instruction to young Caymanians. That is fundamentally the core benefit. 

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LT: What are the trainees going to be learning throughout the programme?  

KCT: A little bit of everything. For us, in addition to regular things related to the front and back of house, one of the things that I have asked Dr. Karima Lanfranco to focus on is problem-solving. Not problem-solving just for when they are at a front desk and a guest comes up and there’s an issue, but problem-solving for themselves as well. You wake up in the morning and you have a flat tire? You’ve got to get to work, so what do you do? And that seems natural to some people, but for some young people that are 17 years old, sometimes that’s overwhelming, and they don’t know what to do—so helping them problem solve. If we can’t get them there and they can’t get to where they need to be, they can’t be successful.  

The other key thing they’re going to learn is communication. There may be things that happen where they cannot get to work. You don’t just sit there and worry about it. You pick up the phone and communicate about it. So, helping them understand that communication is such a huge part of what they’re doing.  

Also, to recognise that in this field, being able to communicate effectively is a fundamental skill. And once they learn this skill they will be able to use it on their first job and on every other one after that. The same things that we are trying to get across to them are the same things LinkedIn list as their top job skills. 


LT: After getting to meet those involved in the programme so far and seeing what our programme has to offer and our properties, what are your initial thoughts? 

KCT: This was incredibly needed. What I got from the students in the short time I spent with them is that it wasn’t their content knowledge that was so helpful; but it was the energy and confidence that you instilled in them. It was the belief that the world is bigger and they can do bigger things, and I think that, before Lynn University ever touches this programme, that is a tremendous success and one that your programme should be proud of. 


LT: As a Caymanian, what do you have to say to those who often overlook careers in hospitality? 

KCT: Hospitality is becoming so much more dominant in every field. There is a tremendous intersection with many different industries. Industries are looking to hospitality to improve the experience and quality of service. 

So, no matter what it is, if you’re in Boca Raton and something happens to you, you need to go to the hospital. Their focus is on the patient experience, “how can we help you? How can we make this better?” It used to be, “You broke your leg, let’s fix it,” but now it’s “Yes, you broke your leg, and we need to fix it, but we also want to make sure you have a good experience while you’re here.” That is what hospitality has done to industries; it has impacted them, and it’s increasing that impact.  

For our young people, getting to experience this core training is essential, and something that is transferable and can be taken with them to no matter what industry they find themselves settling into. Whether it is the skill of making someone feel heard during a time of need or knowing how to handle conflict, the hospitality industry provides concrete knowledge and skills. Additionally, I think we too often overlook the skills that are needed to stand at a front desk and deal with an irate customer, the level of creativity and compassion that is required in that moment is significant. It is the same skill that every industry is looking to acquire and harness. So, it’s invaluable. 


LT: What does it mean for you to be giving back to Cayman in this way? 

KCT: It’s funny because I was 17 years old when I went to the University of Miami. I was scared and afraid to leave home. I never thought I would ever live abroad, but for me a series of things aligned. 

To begin with, earning a Ph.D. and wanting to work in higher education almost entirely precluded me from initially returning home. Additionally, as I began to work in the US, I began to develop certain career aspirations that required me to work abroad. However, I still travelled home multiple times a year to see family, and when I married and had twin boys, I brought them along and continued this tradition. In many ways, I felt like I had the best of both worlds. But this opportunity is priceless to me. To have the opportunity to come back home and share the value and the transformative power of higher education is incredibly personally fulfilling. I would not be where I am today without higher education. My mother graduated as a Valedictorian from Triple C, but she never got the opportunity to go to college. From the time I was a little girl, it was her dream to see me through college and see me flourish to where I am today. So, if I can instil just a little bit of belief in the power of higher education to these young Caymanians, I am hoping that the world will open up for them, the way it did for me.  


LT: Anything else you’d like to add? 

KCT: I am excited about this partnership; I think that it has a tremendous future and I am excited to see where these two weeks of training go, and what comes next.  

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