Every year since 2017, the Broad College’s School of Hospitality Business has sent select students to attend the Young Hospitality Summit, hosted by the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne Hospitality Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland. This year, hospitality business juniors Olivia Cannella and Tyler Dahms represented Michigan State University at YHS on March 13–15.
The three-day summit welcomes both professionals and students from all over the world and is considered the most influential global student-organized hospitality summit. In addition to fireside chats, panels, networking workshops and social events, participating students work on a unique, realistic project in the YHS Challenge.
This year’s case challenge was in partnership with NEOM, a $500 billion smart city project in Saudi Arabia, and its newest development, the Line, a planned linear city to house 9 million residents. Cannella and Dahms were part of 16 randomly assigned teams tasked with working on the case challenge and presenting to a panel of six judges from YHS and NEOM.
Cannella and her team brought home the first-place prize and secured an invite to visit NEOM to further discuss and explore their unique ideas with the team. She attributed the team’s success to its focus on the Line’s objective of nurturing personal experiences and community connection.
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“By focusing on the ultimate goals of the organization, we could differentiate ourselves from other teams and present valuable ideas that support NEOM’s goals as the future of hospitality. Out of 16 teams, my team made it to the top three for further questions, and after thorough consideration and a unanimous vote by the judges, our team emerged as the first-place finalist,” she said. “This is an honor that I am still processing the results of but am eternally grateful for.”
Karthik Namasivayam, director of the School of Hospitality Business, said participating in YHS increases MSU’s global footprint and sets us apart from global competition.
“It is important for us to continue establishing a global presence for our school and the university as a whole. By doing so, we are putting our name on the map and attracting exceptional students from countries all over the world,” he said. “The School of Hospitality Business always strives to enable more students to travel for global competitions and conferences.”
The opportunity to attend YHS is open to all juniors and seniors in hospitality business at MSU, but only two students are selected and invited to attend as delegates. Students go through a competitive application process to earn a spot in the summit.
“Students first go through an initial application process organized by our school, but the final decision is up to YHS and EHL,” said Jeff Elsworth, associate professor of hospitality business, who oversaw this year’s selection. “We scan students’ profiles for their relevant work experience and GPAs, then invite back a number of them to solve a case study and present to the selection committee. Students who move on to the next round submit a video and an essay to YHS for final selection.”
Both Cannella and Dahms agreed that the summit was one of the most influential events they have attended while in college.
“Those three days have challenged my perceptions, standards and expectations of this vast industry. YHS brought the future of the industry to us through industry leaders, keynote speakers and panels. The connections that I have made as a result of this conference are invaluable and will undoubtedly last a lifetime,” Cannella said.
Dahms added, “I am humbled to have been a delegate for the School of Hospitality Business. I had the great pleasure of meeting over 70 delegates from over 30 of the top hospitality schools in the world. Each student was incredibly passionate, with stellar visions for the future of hospitality! On top of the networking opportunities, YHS and its amazing team brought in prominent speakers for keynote sessions and panels to speak on important topics and stir guiding conversation for our industry.”
Fostering a global mindset is one of the Broad College’s strategic themes, and participation at events like YHS presents a unique, hands-on opportunity for students to broaden their worldview and excel on a global scale.