McKenzie Van Essen-Morris

McKenzie Van Essen-Morris

My relationships with faculty were — and still are — impeccable.

Meet McKenzieBook knowledge is great. But in the School of Resort & Hospitality Management (RHM), it will only take you so far. There’s nothing like hands-on experience.

For McKenzie Van Essen-Morris, it came during a week at DisneyWorld and study abroad in Italy (Food and Wine Tour) and Spain, France and Monaco (Hospitality Tour).

“In the Disney Class, we got to learn the back side of the operations at all the parks through seeing hands-on operations and talking to management,” she says. “It really brought everything we’ve read about full circle to how relevant it is in the work place.

“Both study-abroad trips enhanced my education by opening my eyes to what else is out there and what we as a country can learn from Europe and vice versa. I really loved all the real-world experience that we got exposed to prior to graduation through the School of RHM.”

The FGCU connection never left her even after she graduated.

After moving to Vermont and quickly learning it wasn’t for her, she returned to Florida and found her anchor at FGCU.

“It was that team of faculty and professors that picked me up and got me refocused on pursuing my career,” she says.

With a boost from her former professors, McKenzie was hired as the outlet manager at Edgewater Beach Hotel. After three years of growth in social media marketing, banquets and restaurant operations, she was promoted to food and beverage director in March 2018.

“My relationships with faculty were — and still are — impeccable,” she says. “While in school, I had spent a lot of time in their offices learning concepts if I didn’t fully understand the curriculum, and that ensured I got the right grasp on everything.

“They were saints while I was in college, but honestly, they are my rocks for growing in my career in this industry. To this day, I can call on them If I need advice on workplace stuff or concepts that I’m not sure of and they will always have the right answer and point me in the right direction.”