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The Art Is Elevated at Kirkwood

Story by Deborah Jansen, photography and slideshow by David Peterson

The shock of deep red catches the eye — crimson banners fluttering in the outdoor courtyard. They match splashes of velour inside — sleek, elongated pillows dotting vibrant white leather chairs.

Black satin drapes and white gauzy sheers cloak the tall windows and mimic zebra stripes in the rugs underfoot. An aroma of a fresh-brewed latte wafts from a black quartz coffee bar. A relaxing samba plays overhead.

“Good morning.” A young bell captain wearing a double-breasted gray jacket nods. “We want your stay to be everything you’ve hoped for. May I help you with your bags?”

The Hotel at Kirkwood Center began as a bold dream nine years ago. Today this working laboratory on Kirkwood Community College’s main campus in Cedar Rapids is the reality-based training grounds for the next generation of hospitality arts professionals.

Seth Knight, a dual-track hotel and restaurant  management student from Cedar Rapids, taps rapidly on a keyboard at the front desk.

His crisp white shirt, black necktie, and gray blazer display an air of professionalism. His grin is contagious, and guests smile back.

“When I graduate from this school, people will know I’ve been trained well,” says Knight, describing two-year degree programs in which students log a volume of on-the-job clinical hours that rivals that required at many four-year programs.

 “I can honestly say I’ve worked in every department of a hotel, and I’ve learned those departments need each other.”

 

 

 

(Read more about Iowa Hospitality)

Student Seth Knight championed an invitation extended to the president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) in 2010. “He was impressed,” says Knight, who helped to charter a student chapter of the AHLA, creating an additional avenue to industry knowledge and resources. The college has one of only 16 student chapters in the United States — and the first student chapter on a community college campus. “Kirkwood is definitely making a name for itself.”
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