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ONLINE EXTRA

Taking Risks and
Opening Doors

OuYang Xinchun glared at the dark sky in the west. Thunderclouds threatened September’s Swine & Wine, a first-ever, outdoor barbeque event featuring pork dishes created by culinary students at Kirkwood Community College, Iowa wines, and local musicians.

As a hotel management student at Kirkwood, Xinchun, a 25-year-old student from China, had plunged into promotions, menu-selection, booking musicians, and set-up for this event.

“Communication is huge in this industry, but we had one major breakdown before the event! I knew nothing about sound equipment,” says Xinchun, who let another team member handle that aspect.

Unfortunately, that person was sick the week before the event and didn’t leave any notes. Xinchun and the banquet chef made contact by phone, took notes, rallied the set-up crew, and lined up the equipment.

“I learned from my mistakes — from beginning to end — with that event!” says Xinchun.

Xinchun first heard about Kirkwood’s hotel management program from a Cedar Rapids couple who had been her college English instructors in China.

The Iowans had graduated from Kirkwood and kept in touch with their alma mater. They told Xinchun of Kirkwood’s teaching hotel, and she liked what she heard. She applied for a student visa and enrolled in the hotel management program in 2010.

Throughout her education, Xinchun has worked in every department of a full-service boutique hotel. “When I messed up, I’d ask myself, ‘How could I do this better next time?’ My managers and professors told me everyone has problems behind the scenes. But things get done — and often beautifully.”

The freedom to take risks and learn from mistakes, she says, is the experience she values most in Kirkwood’s hotel management program.

Beyond the classroom and hands-on experience of The Hotel at Kirkwood Center, Xinchun has seized on additional opportunities, including a hotelier convention in New York and an internship in a posh Las Vegas hotel.

During a recent visit back home, she traveled to several major Chinese cities where the hotel industry is growing. “I’ll have many opportunities in China,” says Xinchun, noting the rapid expansion of international tourism in her homeland.

“But I wanted knowledge and experience — so I could excel in the real world. I’m eager to work smart and become a professional, international hotelier.”

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