Hospitality program earns another victory

November 17, 2017 / by / 0 Comment

GCU’s Sarah Mondragon (bottom row, center) and Brett Cortright (top, right) took part in the “Are You Smarter than a Hospitality/Tourism Student?” competition Thursday at the November luncheon for the Arizona chapter of the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International. (Photo courtesy of HSMAI)

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Industry professionals know about the hospitality program at Grand Canyon University – they know it will serve them right.

“There are so many people from hotels in the Valley – some of the GMs and owners of hotels – reaching out to us and saying, ‘I can’t wait for students to come out of this program,’” said Brett Cortright, General Manager of the Grand Canyon University Hotel.

Five already have graduated, nine more are scheduled to receive their diplomas in December, and there are many more on the way as the program continues to grow.

Thursday, some of those professionals got to see once more some of the reasons behind the anticipation. GCU Golf Course was the site of the November meeting for the Arizona chapter of the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International, and Sarah Mondragon, one of those December grads, took part in a fun and educational event.

Mondragon was one of three members of a student panel – the others were from Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University – that competed against a trio of industry professionals, including Cortright, in “Are You Smarter than a Hospitality/Tourism Student?”

The students won, but the main thing was that everyone got a few good laughs out of it and learned a few things, too.

The competitors were asked to answer 16 questions – four rounds of four apiece and then a final question, a la “Jeopardy.” Some of the questions were simple, but the degree of difficulty kept increasing to the point where both sides were stumped.

The first question, “What is the international symbol of hospitality?”, was an easy one for Mondragon. She said she learned it on her first day of class. Many of the other questions addressed issues she also has learned at GCU.

“That was a fun experience,” she said afterward.

She clearly was enjoying it when the industry pros missed a question. She took the opportunity to grab the microphone and teased, “Brett’s been out of school for a looooong time.”

The competition was tight, right down to the final bonus question: “Which two U.S. states do not allow gambling?”

The students went all in, wagering all 110 of the points they had earned, and got it right: Utah and Hawaii.

The Arizona chapter of HSMAI is the second largest in the country and was named International Chapter of the Year for 2015-16. Mondragon joined a few months ago and said, “I love that GCU is getting students involved with them.”

Sounds as if the feeling is mutual.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or

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