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Hospitality (2)

Going Up

Dawn Stoltenberg scoots past a set of tall, funnel-shape white floor lamps just outside the elevator door, moving swiftly down a corridor filled with abstract paintings in gold, sandstone, and indigo tones. She unlocks the supply room door and wheels out a housekeeping cart.

“I’ve never worked in a place as beautiful as this,” says Stoltenberg, a Vinton native and housekeeping veteran who worked for more than a decade in area hotels before joining the Hotel at Kirkwood Center’s professional team.

“Look at this detail.” She presses the doorbell outside the Presidential Suite, one of her favorite rooms. The chime inside the guest room — lending at-home atmosphere — sounds faint in the hallway ­— a nod to courtesy for other guests and a reprieve from door knocking. “I used to have sore knuckles by the end of the day.”

Students work alongside professional staff, learning all facets of hotel operations. Dawn Stoltenberg (above) provides housekeeping training to numerous students each semester.

Inside the Presidential Suite, Stoltenberg supervises a student as together they complete tasks in clockwise order, bustling in and out of the doorway to deposit used linens and empty trash cans, to retrieve cleaning supplies and thick cotton towels.

A snap of the snow-white sheet and it parachutes onto the bed, each ripple smoothed by hand.

“The best part of my job is working with students,” says Stoltenberg, who supervises the work of about a half dozen undergraduates each semester. “How many housekeepers can say they’ve had a chance to influence so many students?”

The teaching hotel — including restaurant and banquet facility — is staffed by 174 employees, 14 of whom hold full-time salaried positions on top of classroom responsibilities.

During the school year, hospitality arts students circulate through the various hotel departments — sometimes working side by side with a trainer, sometimes themselves taking a supervisory role — generally with a 3-to-1 ratio of industry professionals to student workers.

Back in the Presidential Suite, drapes are swiped, carpet is vacuumed, desks and tables are dusted, glass is polished. Before leaving the room, Stoltenberg and the student stand together in the doorway.

She trains each student to pause for this final visual sweep. “If I were staying in a luxury hotel, would this room meet my expectations? Would I be getting my money’s worth?”

(Read more about Iowa Hospitality)

Hotel management student Ouyang Xinchun (top) came from China for the unique hospitality arts experience at Kirkwood College.


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