KOKOMO, Ind. — From hotels and restaurants, to baseball fields and museums, Indiana University Kokomo hospitality and tourism students gained a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their career field on a two-day field trip.
Heather Kennedy-Eden, assistant professor of hospitality and tourism management, led her Travel Indiana class to northeast Indiana, to gain an understanding of how those working in the industry create a great visitor experience.
“When we go as a guest, we often go through the experience without thinking about how it was constructed for our benefit,” she said. “As a tourism professional, it is our job to create positive experiences for our guests, and to construct an atmosphere where positive experiences can take place, so that fond memories are created, and people want to come back.”
Students met with tourism representatives from Kosciusko County at Winona Lake, enjoyed lunch at an Amish restaurant and visited the Shipshewana area and Menno-Huff Museum, toured the Cord-Duesenburg Automobile Museum, saw Turnstone, the newest U.S.A. Paralympics training facility, walked through downtown Fort Wayne, and toured the Honeywell Center, among other activities.
The trip to northeast Indiana is part of IU Kokomo’s “KEY” program — the Kokomo Experience and You. The program launched in 2016 to provide students chances to connect with people and participate in real-world experiences.
Kennedy-Eden noted that every trip includes “one profound learning opportunity” where students gain a new perspective, and Turnstone provided that chance on this trip.
“This facility takes accessibility to the level it should be in society, and the students gained a greater understanding of the minor changes and architectural changes that can provide better accomodations for those in this population,” she said.
Turnstone was James Bauder’s favorite destination, because of the insight he gained on making facilities accessible.
“It was amazing to see what they’ve accomplished, and how it was totally built to accommodate people with disabilities,” he said. “From the way the showers were built, to the width of the hallway, you could tell they put a lot of thought into the construction of the building.”
The Cord-Duesenburg Automobile Museum helped Mallory Maris, Kokomo, think outside the box for her career as an event planner, when she saw staff setting up for a wedding at the venue.
“I thought it was neat that someone was having a wedding in such an unusual destination,” she said. “It’s not someplace a lot of people would have considered for a wedding, but it’s memorable.”
It also made her think of her home state differently in terms of tourism.
“A lot of times, people think there isn’t much to do in their own states, but that’s not necessarily true,” she aid. “Now I see a lot of things offered here in our home state.”
Maris, a senior, enjoyed opportunities to talk to hospitality and tourism professionals currently working in the field, for their insights and ideas.
“It gave me an outlook on different aspects of the industry, and led me to be even more sure of what I want to do in my future career,” she said.
Senior Brittany Devore wants to work in the hotel industry, and appreciated the chance to learn about it from people with real world experience.
“You learn about things in class, you can read about it, but it’s cool to see how people use it in their day-to-day lives to make a better experience for tourists,” the Michigantown resident said, adding that Menno-Hoff, the Mennonite museum, was her favorite experience.
“I loved that you can walk through it, and literally feel like you are walking through time,” she said. “It was interactive, and kept my attention throughout the whole tour.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.