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A University of Wisconsin-Stout student chapter of the Club Managers Association of America has received a national award, thanks to an innovative idea involving one of the most popular trends in the food industry, farmers markets.
The chapter was named a Club of the Future at the CMAA World Conference Feb. 4-8 in Orlando.
Club of the Future awards were given out to just five chapters. UW-Stout won in the event category for a concept that would involve clubs, such as country clubs, hosting farmers markets at their facilities. Members would buy local, organic produce and sample recipes freshly made by the club's chef using the produce. Then, members would vote on their favorite recipes, and the winner would be added to the club's menu.
UW-Stout chapter president Colin Roche, of Grafton, said all 19 chapter members at the conference contributed to the development of the contest submission. He singled out Cody Davenport, of Bristol, for the initial idea and Laura Myers, of St. Paul, for designing the poster that summarized the key ideas.
After winning the award, chapter members presented the idea to dozens of club managers at the conference. "It seemed to be really well-received. One manager said he wanted to try it at his club," Roche said.
Students did research to support their idea, noting that the local, organic food market is growing by 20 percent a year and is an $11 billion a year industry in the U.S. The number of farmers markets have tripled in the last decade. In addition, people are seeking more farm-to-table dining experiences, in which restaurants use food bought directly from a local producer.
"The contest helped us gauge what we'll be doing in the future and how managers assess our skills," said Roche, a senior majoring in golf enterprise management.
Roche thanked Bailey Miller, who works at the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., for support with the contest entry. Miller is a mentor to Roche and Davenport, both of whom had internships at the Tuxedo Club.
"One of the special aspects of being involved in CMAA is mentoring. Many students have professional mentors during their early years in the industry to help them succeed," Roche said.
Along with the award, the UW-Stout chapter tied for having the most students at the conference, Roche said. Students were accompanied by Lalia Rach, director of the School of Hospitality Leadership, and club adviser Phil McGuirk, an associate professor.
"Attending the conference allows the students a unique view of their chosen profession and reinforces the polytechnic concept of putting theory into practice," Rach said. "We are very proud of our students' accomplishment."
The conference, which drew about 2,400 club managers from around the world, included a business expo. Students were able to network and interview for internships. All 19 returned with internship offers, McGuirk said.
"I received many positive comments at the conference about the 19 students in regards to their professionalism, dress and leadership skills. Some of the students received as many as four offers for internships," McGuirk said.
McGuirk founded UW-Stout's CMAA chapter, the first one admitted to the national organization, in 1975.
For more information
about the programs in UW-Stout's School of Hospitality Leadership, go to the website.