Simply Jules: A Huge Surprise from Hyatt Hotels

CIA Student Jules Esposito won $20,000 scholarship from Hyatt Hotels

Over the course of my life, I seem to have developed the “give it a shot” mentality. I have rid the fear of not being enough and somewhere along the way decided to try everything, regardless of how ridiculous or far-fetched it may seem. While I have been turned down more times than I can count, I have also had some great outcomes. This is how I began having a segment on the Connecticut news program, CT Style and how I got the opportunity to compete in Rachael Ray’s Cook Your Way To Culinary School competition. And, most recently, it’s how I ended up in Chicago for what I thought would be a hospitality conference through Hyatt Hotels—but which turned out to be that and so much more.

An Opportunity from My Hospitality Professor

It all started several months back, when my professor sent out an e-mail to our hospitality management class with an opportunity from Hyatt Hotels to go to Chicago and see their headquarters. To be quite honest, I can’t recall the specifics of what the trip was said to entail, but I saw “travel” and I figured,  “why not?”. I completed the quick interview online and completely forgot that I had applied. A month later (the week before the trip), I received a phone call saying that I had been chosen and accepted to travel. I was thrilled.

On My Way to Hyatt Hotels!

After making phone calls home to share the news, I received my flight info and travel details and began to get excited about my first-ever solo adventure. Knowing only that I needed to bring a couple of business-professional outfits, I boarded the plane and questioned what exactly I was going to be doing there. I knew we would tour the building and have dinner with several of their team members, but other than that I was not too sure.

CIA Student Jules Esposito touring Chicago on a networking trip to Hyatt Hotels

Checking Out Chicago

I arrived in Chi-Town, made it to the hotel, unpacked, and immediately headed to the obligatory tourist destinations I was determined to see in the free time I had. First stop was to see “the Bean” in Millennium Park, which was an amazing structure. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and decided to check out the Skydeck at Willis Tower. Standing at 1,353 feet, this is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere; taller than the Eiffel Tower AND the Empire State Building. I took the elevator to the 103rd floor and stood in a glass box that protrudes from the side of the building. It was amazing, but I can guarantee I will not be jumping from tall buildings anytime soon!

Touring Hyatt’s Headquarters

That night, we had dinner with two lovely members of the Hyatt team, and I met the two other girls who I would be touring with. I got some rest after being sleep-deprived from travel, and woke up ready for the next busy day. We were able to check out Hyatt’s impressive headquarters, and it truly broadened my horizons as to what actually occurs in a headquarters. Their office is not composed of standard cubicles and closed-off rooms; it is an open floor plan, with whiteboards as walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and an innovative design (not to mention a well-equipped coffee station on each floor). We had the opportunity to speak with Mark Pardue, senior vice president of operations and human resources, and discuss our college experiences and hopes for the future. We learned that we would be attending a Hyatt Hospitality Education Fundraiser that night to discuss what being a hospitality management student is like.

CIA Student Jules Esposito at the Skydeck at Willis Tower

A Hospitality Scholarship Surprise!

After having a couple of hours to relax, we headed to McCormick Place for the fundraiser. It was lovely: hors d’ourve, cellists, and the opportunity to meet many industry professionals. The one thing I took away from talking to many Hyatt employees was noticing how happy they were and just how much pride they took in their job. I recognized that their staff was truly enjoying what they were doing—and that is important. We were invited on stage to chat about who we were, and all three of us girls were astounded when Mark Pardue awarded us each a $20,000 scholarship in the form of a jumbo check! They also offered us each a spot in their corporate training program upon graduating our universities. Completely dumbfounded and caught off guard, I was both taken aback and so excited. We each made phone calls home to share the news with our families (who may have even been more thrilled than we were!). I had not expected this at all, but I left that event feeling so very grateful. College is expensive, and that was a huge relief in the financial department.

Savoring the Experience

I left Chicago with not only the scholarship check, but also two new friends from across the country, great connections at Hyatt, and a newfound confidence from traveling solo. More than anything, this experience deepened my inclination to take advantage of every opportunity that life sends my way, because you truly never know what the outcome may be.

Jules Esposito