Associate in Science Degree in Hotel Management
Bachelor of Science Degree in Hospitality Management for Sports and Entertainment Management
Bridget Ayerle has had her foot in the hospitality industry since she was a teenager, bussing tables at a restaurant. She decided to major in it too, earning an Associate in Science Degree in Hotel Management and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Hospitality Management, concentrating in Sports and Entertainment Management, from Johnson and Wales University in 2006. After a few years in the industry working at a hotel and then a restaurant, she decided to further her education, earning an MBA from Stony Brook University in 2010, all the while still working tables as a waitress. Upon graduation, she found a job as a manager with Doherty Enterprises, which runs the Applebee’s restaurant chain.
Why did you decide to study hospitality?
My first real job, aside from babysitting the neighbors’ kids which is a task in itself, was bussing tables in a restaurant during the weekends while I was in high school. I love food, maybe a little too much, and found that I loved giving people an enjoyable experience. It was the fast-pace work environment and the unbelievable teamwork involved in all aspects of the hospitality industry that really drew me in. Plus, I don’t think I could ever be happy confined behind a desk.
What are some of your most memorable experiences during your education?
Aside from the typical college kid shenanigans? I loved the fact that since Johnson and Wales University is a hospitality school, all my peers had the same goals as me. We were all studying to be in the same industry, so it was easy to relate and bond together to complete group projects with dynamic creativity and passion. Also, there were a few simulation classes where the class as a whole was given a restaurant for four hours a day the entire semester to create a new menu daily, cook the food, and serve invited guests. It really taught me leadership, multitasking, and quick problem solving when things went wrong.
Anything you didn’t like about studying it?
The one thing that was difficult was understanding certain aspects of the business without having any experience in it. I studied many numbers involving accounting and food costs that I did not fully understand until I’m actually applying today in my daily work. In school, I didn’t fully understand the importance [of those numbers] on the business and its bottom line. It all finally became clear when I was working in the field as a manager.
How has your degree influenced your career?
I’ve had many career options and have made many choices throughout my life that have all led me to where I am. My degree gave me a great foundation to grow upon. It confirmed that I have a passion for hospitality. My degree has given me confidence to take on anything. I learned that I liked working in hotels, but loved the fast pace of a restaurant environment.
What skills from your degree do you still use? Any you don’t?
The obvious skills would be managing people. I was an intern in the Human Resources Department of the Providence Marriot one summer. That gave me valuable hands-on learning experience that I wouldn’t have received from studying a textbook. I took many courses on casino management. Those classes were a lot of fun and really gave insight on the many facets of casino operations. However, I never made it past playing the slots in that industry.
What advice would you give to potential students?
My advice would be to take advantage of all your school has to offer. Join a club, go to all the career fairs, and seek counsel from your professors. College is a great networking tool and all of my professors had 10-plus years experience in the hospitality industry, so they really knew what they were teaching. And lastly, if you feel passionate about making people happy, then do what you love and study hospitality. Anyone can learn how to operate a business, but passion cannot be taught.