Hospitality Field Trip: A Day in Newport, R.I.

Johnson & Wales University is known for experiential education, and JWU’s College of Hospitality Management finds amazing opportunities for students to get into the world, from hotels to resorts to stadiums and fine dining. Working as a student assistant in the dean’s office, I see all the opportunities students get to go out into the field and learn from industry professionals.

Professor Kathy Drohan invited me to come along to Newport, Rhode Island with her Nature, Sports & Outdoor Recreation class so I can better understand what the coastal city has to offer to tourists. I am a Hospitality Management major, so going with Professor Drohan on this trip was really exciting, as tourism is a huge part of the hospitality industry. (Also, even though it's only 40 minutes from JWU's Providence Campus, I had never been to Newport before.) It was an incredible experience! Here’s a play-by-play of our day.


The class met at Gaebe Commons and hopped onto the Wildcat Wheels bus — and we were off to Newport. Professor Drohan acted as our tour guide of Rhode Island, pointing out the beautiful landscape and landmarks. Before I knew it, we were on the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge overlooking the yacht-filled city.


In about an hour’s time, we arrived at Fort Adams State Park where we were greeted by Evan Smith, president and CEO of Discover Newport, and Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport. Evan gave us a brief introduction to Newport and how it has a robust menu of things to do and see that are recreation- and nature-based. That led to Brad informing us about The Ocean Race, the biggest and toughest sailing race around the world. He shared that their goal was to bring in as many families as they could to the sailing capital of the world to experience one of the the notable sporting events.

Evan Smith give students an introduction to Newport

Evan Smith gives students an introduction to Newport.

On site, there are plenty of educational activities for kids to learn – from science, math, art to engineering, everything was covered. Hundreds of thousands of people attended prior races in 2015 and 2018, so I am curious to see how many people will be attending in 2023. He encouraged us to come check out the event when the sailors dock in Newport from May 13-21, 2023.


Our next stop was to visit the Rail Explorers Rhode Island Division. This is one of five locations the Rail Explorers have around the United States. Vice President of Rail Explorers USA Mark Stenning and Director of Customer Service Megan Smith ’12, a JWU College of Hospitality Management alumna, gave us a brief history of the company and prepared us for our 6-mile peddle journey along the Old Colony Railroad. Everyone was patiently waiting their turn to embark on the pedal-powered vehicles. The beautiful fall weather made the expedition very enjoyable, and we even got to stop in front of the Mount Hope Bridge to take a picture! Mark said that “Today, travel is all about experiences” and Rail Explorers is a unique activity that draws attention and hooks people in.

Students get to experience an excursion popular among tourists

Students get to experience an immersive excusrion popular among tourists.

Once we arrived at our destination, we were all starving, as Rail Explorers was quite the exercise. Evan Smith was more than kind to have pizza waiting for us upon arrival. Everyone was extremely thankful and then graciously devoured the pizza.

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At this point everyone was exhausted. We all hopped back onto the Wildcat Wheels to head back north to Providence. While we were stuck in traffic, most of my peers and I fell asleep. When I woke up again, we’d arrived back at Gaebe Commons. I had a wonderful time with Prof. Drohan and thanked her for inviting me to learn outside of the classroom. It was a very eventful day, and I had a lot of fun understanding how visiting Newport ties in with the Nature, Sports & Outdoor Recreation class. By participating in this field trip, I’ve opened up my eyes on how even the smallest state in the United States can be a big part of the tourism industry.

I know that I made the right choice by coming to Johnson & Wales University because of the education opportunities they give to all of us. The College of Hospitality Management excels at experiential education, so it’s never a boring day.

Newport Bridge background

Students get a view of the Newport Bridge from the Rail Explorers excursion.

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