Lopes Live Labs offer hospitality, finance training

August 24, 2021 / by / 0 Comment

Colleen O’Kane has served customers — and her future career — in multiple ways thanks to GCU’s hospitality program and her work at GCU Hotel and Canyon 49 Grill.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the cover story on Lopes Live Labs in the August 2021 issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.

By Rick Vacek
GCU Magazine

The question was simple. The answer was complex, but Colleen O’Kane rattled it of from memory.

What jobs, she was asked, have you done at GCU Hotel and its adjoining restaurant, Canyon 49 Grill?

Colleen O’Kane is the student general manager of Canyon 49 Grill.

“You ready for this list? It’s a little long,” she said.

Fire away.

“Hostess, food runner, expo, server, bar back, barista, front desk agent, catering admin. And now student general manager.”

That last role is her most important. As student GM for the 2021-22 academic year, the GCU senior manages four administrators (catering, hiring, social media and labor management).

Which means she’s getting a priceless amount of experience.

“I get to learn what I just learned in class in the restaurant, in a real-world environment,” said O’Kane, who is running things remotely for a few months – her GCU experience enabled her to earn a spot in the Disney College Program.

“Everything that I’ve absorbed in class, I get to execute while I’m doing my job. It’s a great learning opportunity, and I get to teach that to the other students as well. It really makes for a great atmosphere of learning for everyone and improving every year.”

O’Kane learned even more by doing all this during the pandemic. One of her roles involved running the entire operation at one of the residence halls that also served as a quarantine site.

“I’m glad that I was in college when this happened because I was able to learn how you continue a business within a pandemic when everyone’s at home and you barely have any staff,” she said. “GCU has really helped me learn what to do.”

The new Charles Schwab Foundation Finance Center is located on the first floor of the Colangelo College of Business Building. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

GCU Hotel and Canyon 49 Grill are considered Lopes Live Labs, and Dr. Randy Gibb, Dean of the Colangelo College of Business, calls them a classic example of GCU’s hands-on approach.

“We have a hospitality program, but we very intentionally bought the hotel, fixed it up and built a restaurant to give students an applied learning lab,” he said.

The college was just as intentional in creating the Charles Schwab Foundation Finance Center, scheduled for a Sept. 16 grand opening.

Made possible by a multiyear grant from Schwab Advisor Services, it will be the place where finance classes and finance clubs meet and students prepare for the Security Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, which all certified financial planners (CFPs) and other industry professionals must pass.

“You have to have experience to get your CFP – pass the test and get experience,” CCOB finance instructor Mark Jacobson said. “We’re going to build a pathway, a course walk, to get your CFP.”

The room includes televisions tuned to stock market news (“All the bells and whistles of the financial world,” Jacobson said) and four workstations. The goal is to provide focused, principled graduates to an industry that has plenty of openings for qualified people.

“It’s all about credibility. It’s all about licensing, credentials, reputation,” Jacobson said.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


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