Experience Gained: Mandarin Oriental Boston Redesign

Smiling JWU students lined up in front of the Mandarin Oriental hotel for a group shot

Editor’s Note: Brad Dubisz, a Hotel & Lodging Management major at JWU’s Providence Campus, shares his story, in his own words, about a class project that gave Brad and his classmates some real-world experience working on a project for the Mandarin Oriental Boston.

As a student in the Hotel & Lodging Management program at JWU, I had an incredible opportunity to work with the Mandarin Oriental Boston. It began when Assistant Professor Brian Ferguson approached me to see if I had any room in my winter term schedule for an extra class. As he described it, we would be coming up with a plan about how to redesign this luxury hotel’s lobby and share the plan with them. However, as this class progressed, I learned that it was about much more than redesigning the lobby.This class was first developed through the management team at the Mandarin Oriental. The hotel’s human resource department reached out to Johnson & Wales’ International Hotel School and asked us to create a plan. They essentially wanted a group of JWU students to redesign and potentially restructure their lobby for 2 different reasons. The hotel wanted to be better at attracting millennials while simultaneously bringing the surrounding Boston community into its lobby. JWU was able to create this class in a matter of weeks and handpick students who faculty thought would best represent the talents of the university’s students.

I felt honored to be selected for this project and I knew I would learn a lot from participating. The university selected 6 Hotel & Lodging Management majors, 2 Tourism & Hospitality Management majors, and 1 student from the College of Engineering & Design. This was the perfect mix for us to accomplish what we needed to for the project. With the help of Professor Ferguson, we were able to get ahold of a new collaborative software program, Microsoft Teams, to help our group function more efficiently and work on projects in real time without being in the same room together. Since Microsoft Teams is an up-and-coming software, it was a good experience to learn how to use it firsthand. We were also lucky to be able to work in a collaborative workspace, WeWork, during a few of our trips to Boston. This space featured a variety of workspace styles that were helpful for us to work in and for studying the nature of how such an integrative space functions. The way that people using WeWork were fueled by each other’s energy was an integral theme in our final presentation.

Throughout the term we were able to take quite a few trips into Boston. During these trips we would research the competitive hotel properties firsthand, experience the surrounding community, and get a more in-depth look at the Mandarin Oriental itself. This tremendous experience was, no doubt, the real-world experience that every university attempts to provide to students, but one that JWU actually does provide. All of our research during these trips was firsthand knowledge that we were able to interpret ourselves and then convey to the professionals for their benefit and our own.

When we delivered our final presentation, it was like no other. We were prepared to give about an hour-long deliverable to the professionals that ran this luxury hotel every day. Among these hoteliers were the general manager, hotel manager, finance director, human resource director and a few others. Through an abundance of nerves, eagerness and trepidation, we were able to come out of the boardroom alive. In fact, the executive committee had many great questions and kind words for us at the end. They mentioned that they had heard a multitude of similar projects and presentations from other colleges, and ours had “blown them all away.” The experience that all of us received from this program was unlike any other, and I owe Johnson & Wales all the credit for making it possible.

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