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January 20, 2010

Laura Smart
Laura Smart
Lan Li
Lan Li

Marriott funds NIU scholarships to recruit minorities to hospitality administration program

DeKalb, Ill. — Minority high school students who hope to study hospitality administration at Northern Illinois University this coming fall can apply for scholarships of $8,000, thanks to the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

NIU received $32,000 from the foundation to fund four recruitment incentives for minority high school seniors who are graduating next spring and have participated in ProStart, a career-building program for students interested in hotel, restaurant and food service management.

The School of Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences is linked to Marriott International through Jeffrey Wolff, a 1976 NIU alum who is a vice president with the company and was the founding chair of the school’s Hospitality Administration Advisory Committee.

“We’re so happy,” said professor Lan Li, facilitator of the hospitality administration program.

“In working with Jeffrey, we were talking about how most of the students at NIU are first-generation college and that we have a lot of minority students in our program. Considering the current economic situation, many will have to drop out of school,” Li added. “He mentioned the foundation.”

Li worked with Laura Smart, chair of the school housed in NIU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, to write the grant proposal submitted last April.

They now are spreading the word to high schools in NIU’s service region and at last weekend’s Jan. 16 ProStart Invitational expo at Chicago’s Kendall College, home to one of the nation’s top 10 schools of culinary arts.

Marriott’s money will help to identify, attract and develop those students who show promise of becoming leaders in the hospitality industry.

“The American workforce of the future will consist of more people of color than is true currently,” Smart said. “These individuals no doubt will become role models to their younger family members and provide encouragement for them to also attend NIU.”

Although the $32,000 is a one-time gift, Li and Smart are welcome to author and turn in new proposals to the Marriott Foundation.

Over the years, Wolff’s regional office already has contributed scholarships and sponsored study trips for NIU hospitality administration students. Marriott International leaders also are frequent speakers and job recruiters on campus.

For more information, visit http://www.niu.edu/fcns/undergrad/ndha/index.shtml.

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Media Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
Phone: (815) 753-9472
Email: mmcgowan@niu.edu