The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism and PGA Management students seized the rare opportunity to work at the Masters Tournament.
At what one student called the “All-Star game of the hospitality industry,” 22 Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management and PGA Golf Management students spent two weeks gaining experience in their field working at Augusta National Golf Club. This is the eighth year that the university has been invited to send students to work at the Masters, where students practice their skills in a next-level atmosphere while building connections with other students and industry professionals.
Nebraska was one of the only midwestern schools invited to bring students to the Masters, a testament to the relationships built by the past program director and students’ work ethics.
“Time and time again some of the leaders say, ‘Oh, we love Nebraska students because we know we’re not going to have to worry about them,’” said Kelly Abdelmassih, faculty trip leader. “They’re trainable, they’re highly motivated and they’re fun. Our students have had this reputation of coming in and doing a good job. I’m very happy that over these eight years, our students have developed the reputation of being diligent, hard workers.” At the tournament, students are assigned to work in various hospitality-related roles.
“Working at Augusta National is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Matt Duhs, junior hospitality major and student trip leader. “It’s a place where you can apply what you learned in the classroom but also experience the high expectations of that level of service and that level of standard where you’re making the memory that people have been looking forward to. Some people have waited 30 years just to watch one day of practice, so it’s important to give them a great experience. They always tell us to make someone’s Masters story.”
Students are prepared for the experience through the hospitality program’s coursework and internship requirements.
“I think UNL does a great job of placing emphasis on the experiential side of things,” Duhs said. “By having those required internships and lots of hands-on experience in classes, it sets us up to have street smarts and not just book smarts in a way. When you’re put in a situation like working at the Masters you’re comfortable enough to know what you’re doing.”
For example, as one of Duhs’s three degree-required internships, he worked at a local golf club. Through an advanced event planning course, he helped plan a 15th anniversary celebration for the program as well as a virtual summit for hospitality faculty from around the world.
In addition to preparing students through program requirements, each fall, the hospitality program encourages students to apply to work at the Masters Tournament. Hospitality faculty and staff dedicate their time to helping students prepare their resumes and practice interviews to best prepare them for the hiring process. Once selected, students go through the human resources process to become temporary Augusta National employees. The students then undergo training and call upon their past experiences to prepare for the Masters.
Once at the Masters, the students worked day and night while adhering to meticulous service standards.
“We got to experience one of the most prestigious hospitality-related events and being inside of a top 100 club in the world,” said Duhs. “It was incredible to see how they run things, seeing how they set expectations and have unique terminology and service standards. They’re constantly innovating and working to get better and almost compete with themselves.”
“It’s a very concentrated, high-expectation experience and is a very prestigious, exclusive environment,” Abdelmassih said. “To have this very unique opportunity is directly applicable whether our students end up in the club industry or not. Even if they end up HR professionals, they’ll understand the process of recruiting and hiring large volumes of people for temporary employment.”
For senior hospitality major Dalia Nabulsi, the experience was the capstone on her undergraduate career that required overcoming fears but resulted in new friends and great connections.
“I was so nervous,” she said. “There were so many emotions leading up to it since it was during the last month of my senior year but I’m so grateful that I went. I ended up being excited to go to work every day and met some of my best friends.”
As a senior, the experience applied everything from her coursework and internships, and gained experience that will help her post-graduation as she enters the hospitality industry.
“I think a big part of why Augusta went so well was truly because of my background in serving at a country club,” Nabulsi said. “It was really cool being at the biggest event in the world with the biggest names and serving there made me realize that if I can do that, I can do pretty much anything.”
Nabulsi was recognized for her service multiple times throughout her trip and made not only new friends but connections with industry professionals that may lead to her first job after graduation.
Both Duhs and Nabulsi agreed that having the Masters Tournament on their resume will serve them well moving forward, and recognized the opportunity to apply their skills, participate in this unique experience and learn tools that they will take with them in the future.
“They’re getting exposed to so many aspects of how to run an event with high standards in such a short period of time, not to mention the partnerships, friendships and the collegial relationships they develop while they’re there,” Abdelmassih said. “Even before I started working with the program, I would tell people and I’m working in HRTM at UNL and they’d immediately say ‘Oh, my sister’s cousin or my son did this at the Masters. I heard about it before I even knew what it was. That alone proves it is definitely a highlight and a distinguishing experience of their college journey.”