Words of Hope & Encouragement

Whether you are a recent graduate entering the workforce or a student considering a career in the hospitality and tourism industry, it is undoubtedly a daunting time. And, while the future may seem uncertain, it will get better. Our industry experts and alumni, many whom lived through difficult economic times, share their experience and why they now find their degree more valuable than ever.


America and the world have experienced a crazy turn of events with the advent of COVID-19. With it, the hospitality industry, like so many others, has gone through the spin cycle on high. One thought that has continually resonated with me since this pandemic began is the silver lining that hospitality embodies.

The pandemic has required the industry to adjust and adapt our service model, but it has not changed who we are and what we believe. We remain ever more committed to delivering exceptional meals and experiences, no matter what challenges we may face, because that is what hospitality is! Hospitality professionals don’t give up and serve PB&Js at a wedding because the electricity went out. They find a way to do it right.

I am every bit as excited about the hospitality industry as I was when I graduated from college some 40 years ago. I believe, in fact, that the industry will thrive in the future. In 2016, as a California State University Commencement speaker, I told the graduating seniors: “You hold the power to change an industry…you are beacons of light; now it is time to go out and represent the California State University as the best of the best.” Today is no different. I’m more convinced than ever that California State University students will find a way to be creative, compassionate, and to make an incredible impact on the world of hospitality.

Cary Wheeland
Senior Vice President, Bon Appétit Management Company


Opportunities in Crises - June 2020
Not a pandemic nor torrential storm can quell the passion to travel.  Both the travel industry and the traveling consumer share the dream alike: that adventure in a faraway land.  It is a passion that has held us together through the toughest of times:  Gulf War, September 11, recessions, and climate disasters.   We are a community of brothers and sisters who yearn to go places we’ve never gone before and to dine on exotic tastes that we cannot find at home.

Now that hotels, airlines, and tourists’ sites are beckoning with discounts and prizes, we can get set to dive back into the wonderland of wandering.  This is good news.  The industry wants the travelers as much as the travelers want to pack their bags.

We know the enrichment that travel brings to our lives and our livelihood.  Yes, these have been dark days, but they are days of rare opportunities. Let’s support one another and look through this crisis to find our way to navigate the new normal as we reset our goals and enjoy new paths and familiar byways.

Melita Wade Thorpe
Communications Director, SKAL International - San Francisco


After more than 40 years in hospitality, I have seen many challenges with the Gulf War, Economic downturn, 911, a pandemic and personally surviving Leukemia. Our industry is strong and our people are hardworking. We always will find a way to build teams, create strong alliances with our vendors and understand what the guest is looking for with our products and service. The hospitality successes of our future are individuals who can blend a work ethic with creativity and a solid education. Understand your people and be a good listener. We are in this together!

Bart McPhail, Vice President, The Grill on the Alley
Cal State Long Beach class of 1979


The world feels like it’s imploding right now. I had this same feeling in 2008 when I was majoring in Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona. Everything was uncertain – careers, housing, the economy, everything. It was tough starting my career in that environment. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self not to stress out about things I couldn’t control and to focus on being innovative instead. The world will go on and businesses will adapt. YOU can be the ones changing the industry for the better. Use this time to experiment, learn, and innovate. This is your industry now – lead it.

Erin Mascho, Director of Development, California Restaurant Association Foundation
Cal Poly Pomona (B.S. 2010; M.S. 2014)


Congratulations on your graduation! And so sorry you are not able to celebrate it right now with friends and family. It is an accomplishment you can celebrate for the rest of your life, though.

No question, this will be a difficult job market for a while. But here is some advice I hope you will cheer you up:

California tourism has enjoyed 10 straight years of growth and success! These last few months have been devastating, but the industry will be back. It is strong. It is resilient. And it is starting to recover already.    

Meanwhile, hard times aren't all bad. They shake things up and speed change. They force organizations and people to think differently, find new ideas, let go of comfortable ways, be leaner and faster and smarter.

And guess what, it is way harder for us to do that than for you. All of us who have been in the tourism industry for a while desperately need your energy, creativity, boldness, and fresh thinking.

We are pretty battered right now. But focus on how you can help, and you will be part of exciting new growth and reinvention that will change the tourism industry for the better.

Hang in there and I hope to see you in person soon!

Barbara Newton, President & CEO, California Travel Association


Things were humming along nicely until Coronavirus turned things upside down. While it has been a very challenging time, and I do wish we could hit “re-start” on 2020, being upside down does offer a different perspective.

This new view has forced me to re-think, re-prioritize and innovate. So, the time is now to tap into your can-do and entrepreneurial spirit. You know, the problem-solving skills you’ve been honing for years! Some of our best ideas come we when are put to the test.

My experience with CSU Hospitality students is you are creative, hardworking, and up for the challenge. I believe in you!

For you Seniors, I remember my college graduation like it was yesterday. I’m sorry you’ll be missing the big celebrations and fanfare but don’t let that diminish your amazing accomplishment. Congratulations to you for reaching this milestone! And I can say with confidence that you will remember your college graduation for years to come too! Cheers!

Alycia Harshfield, Executive Director, California Restaurant Association Foundation


To All CSU Hospitality and Tourism Students,

As an industry professional who experienced the 2008 financial crisis, I would like to emphasize that you must be well prepared for now and the near future – the opportunity will come to you SOON. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality and tourism industry is currently suffering. Based on my observation and experience from SARS in 2004 and the 2008 financial crisis, our industry was one of the fastest recovered markets. So, Be Prepared!

Dr. JungYun “Christine” Hur, Assistant Professor, Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration, California State University, Sacramento


It was only a few weeks ago that my colleagues and I were talking to you about careers in the hospitality industry. The industry was at a peak yet poised for growth and jobs were plentiful. Travel shut down within hours of that trip, and I haven’t been on a plane since. As dramatic as the new reality has been for Castell Project, I know it’s even more challenging for you. So, here is what I know.

  • Lift your head up often and test the wind. The end of the world looks like the new reality, but just as suddenly you pick your head up and realize that times are good again. People who do the best out of changing times, and are happiest, look up often and notice the change in the wind early.
  • Every career path is unique. During a downturn you hear that people who graduate in a downturn have less robust careers. However, I’ve been presenting with the many executive women who share their stories with Castell@College. I’ve learned that no one’s story equals the average. Many (if not most) highly successful people have varied career paths. They may have changed industries or specialties, worked overseas, taken breaks for advanced education or to have children, made lateral moves as well as upward moves and found opportunity at more than one company. All of us have built our careers through one or two or three or four downturns – some long and some deep. However, all these successful people continued to challenge themselves and they all enjoy their work. Your career will build if you look for opportunity, keep learning, and reach for change.

I was so impressed with the students I met at the California State University. I know you will take a breath, focus on next steps, and do well in your careers. Look us up at CastellProject.org if we can help.

Peggy Berg, Director, Castell Project


Congrats to the class of 2020! It’s a bummer that graduation can’t happen in person, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t do it! I know this isn’t the job market you were expecting to enter, but it isn’t permanent. Stay strong! As someone who graduated during the Great Recession, better days are ahead. First stop graduation, next step…conquering the world! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish.

Natalie Tong, Programs Director, California Restaurant Association Foundation
Cal Poly Pomona class of 2010