Since 2016, Texas A&M University students have participated in a unique “voyage” that provides a job with full employee benefits and at least a year of training toward a long-term career with an international hotel brand.
The Marriott International Global Voyage Leadership Development Program, or Voyage Program, is available in 50 countries. In the U.S. and Canada, the program recruits its “Voyagers” from more than 80 college and university partner institutions – one of which is Texas A&M, Bryan-College Station.
Heather Eden, Ph.D., instructional assistant professor and internship coordinator in the Department of Hospitality, Hotel Management and Tourism in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said, “Marriott is a world-class brand and the Voyage Program is a world-class program.”
“The Marriot Voyage Program is a yearlong manager-in-training program for recently graduated students,” Eden said. “It is a unique opportunity for students to be paid and get full benefits while getting vital on-the-job management training.”
To date, Texas A&M has had dozens of students participate in the program, building a foundation for a long-term career in the hospitality industry. Marriott International allows Voyagers the flexibility to transfer to any of Marriott’s managed properties throughout the U.S. after completing the program.
Voyage Program students find management careers
Shianne Holmes ’22, a Department of Hospitality, Hotel Management and Tourism graduate with a focus on hospitality and a Professional Event Management Certificate, became a Voyager in February, after learning about the program in one of her classes.
Holmes chose the program’s Food and Beverage discipline, which allowed her to spend six months at one Marriott food and beverage outlet and then six months at a different outlet within the same hotel. She is now a food and beverage manager at the Marriott Marquis Houston, a convention hotel.
The Marriott Marquis is in downtown Houston, across from Minute Maid Park, home to the Houston Astros, and attached to the George R. Brown Convention Center. Both venues supply a steady stream of hotel guests.
“The most interesting and useful aspect of this training has to be stepping into a management position and learning how to manage associates and run front-of-house operations,” Holmes said. “In my position, I experience multiple aspects of the hotel such as guest needs, associate scheduling, food and beverage operations within different restaurants and bars, and how to prepare for high-volume business demands.”
She said the Voyage Program has been instrumental in helping her prepare for a career through a variety of resources within and outside of the hotel.
“The relationships you create with your peers and higher management will give you endless opportunities to move up in the company, and they provide support and guidance if you decide to move anywhere in or out of the country,” Holmes said.
Voyage Program helps develop managers, leaders
Yadira Correa ’23, graduated in May with her bachelor’s degree in recreation, park and tourism sciences and earned a Tourism Management Certificate and Hospitality Management Certificate. In the Voyage Program, she was assigned as a Rooms Operations Voyager at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center.
“I began my voyage in June, a few weeks after graduation,” Correa said. “My experience with the program has been positive and insightful. The company invests in its associates, and I have been exposed to various valuable learning experiences.”
She said the program is also helping her develop as a young leader/manager.
“I have been exposed to new responsibilities and situations from which I am constantly learning and growing,” Correa said. “As someone planning to work in hotel management and operations, I feel this program is setting me up for success in my future with Marriott International.”
Correa plans to increase her experience and move up in the company as a rooms, hotel operations or general manager.
“Returning to college for my master’s degree in hospitality management is also still possible, as Marriott International offers tuition reimbursement,” Correa said. “I definitely recommend the Voyage Program to post-graduates and seniors, as it’s the perfect opportunity to dive into a management position straight out of college.”
Voyage Program provides real-life management experience
Taylor Stokes ’22, a Texas A&M communications major interested in a career in event and banquet planning, also applied for and was accepted into the Voyage Program. She was hired by the banquets department at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa.
Stokes is responsible for staff availability, kitchen coordination, staff roles during functions, and collaborating with other managers departments and event planners.
“I have had the opportunity to better understand the specifics of event and banquet setup and implementation,” she said. “Recently, we set up a plated dinner banquet for more than 1,000 people, but there’s a lot of work that goes into each room set and in setting up for even the smallest buffet.”
As a young professional coming straight out of college, Stokes was worried about how she might fit in at the Hill Country property. But her experience in the program has removed those doubts.
“Everyone was very welcoming and helpful in answering my questions and giving me advice,” she said. “I’m the youngest person in the department, so I learn from older and more experienced people. And my boss is an Aggie, so we have that in common. We have a good team and people who enjoy their work. When the guests see that, they have a better experience.”
Stokes said she has also had the opportunity to meet with general managers and senior management and to network with other hotel personnel in the San Antonio area.
“In the future, I think I might like to relocate to Nashville, Boston, Savannah or Washington D.C.,” she said, “I’d also like to continue to do even bigger events at a larger convention-type property.
Students can choose from various managment disciplines
“We have found the students from Texas A&M to be a good fit for our Voyage Program,” said Genevieve Schiele, lead manager, recruiting and Voyage Program management for Marriott International. Schiele works on the greater University Relations Recruiting team and oversees all recruitment for the South-Central region.
Schiele, based in Dallas, is one of five program recruiters in the U.S. Her career with Marriott International began as a Voyager in 2015. Now, she recruits college and university students throughout Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Oklahoma.
Students from various academic disciplines can apply for the Voyage Program, provided their course of study or previous work experience is compatible with the program’s discipline areas. They can apply during their senior year and start after they graduate with their bachelor’s degree. Additionally, graduates can apply within 24 months of their bachelor’s graduation date.
Successfully completing the Voyage Program puts participants on a path toward management positions in a discipline of their choosing, including accounting and finance; culinary; engineering; banquets; event planning; food and beverage; human resources; revenue management; rooms operations, which includes front desk and housekeeping; and sales.
Program recruitment is through in-person engagement at career fairs, events and virtually.
There are program start dates in January, February, June and July, plus a few openings in September. New Voyagers are eligible to start their position following graduation.
During the 2022-23 academic calendar, there were more than 6,700 applications for the program, with more than 600 Voyagers hired.
After 12 or more months in the program and completing the program curriculum, which is provided as a supplement toward developing in a specific discipline, Voyagers can apply for entry-level management positions.
“We like to say this program serves as a bridge between college and the real world — your first true job once you’ve graduated,” Schiele said.
Management opportunities and choices
“As a Voyager, you are a manager and, in most cases, have people you supervise daily,” Schiele said. “You perform management tasks and are seen as a leader on your Marriott property. And you get health insurance, dental, parental leave and an employer-matched 401K.”
Schiele said one of the great benefits of working for Marriott is the different careers it offers while working for the same company.
“At the end of their program, Voyagers can apply to any management-level position in the company,” Schiele said. “They are not pigeonholed into one straight path forward. If someone decides to go in another direction by changing their discipline, it allows them to pivot without starting over. There’s freedom of choice in selecting a career path.”
She said while some hotel management programs are rotational, the Voyage Program is not.
“Though there will be some job shadowing in multiple departments, you will spend about 95% of your time in your specific discipline,” Schiele said.
Schiele said another difference in the Voyage Program is that it provides additional support through mentorship with a property “coach” in addition to a property “champion,” who is an executive hotel member.
Looking for a few good Voyagers
Schiele said program recruiters are looking for students who will be a good fit for the Marriott International culture and see the program as a good foundation on which to build a long-term career with them.
“The Marriott philosophy is that if you take care of the associate, the associate will take care of the guest, and the guest comes back,” Schiele said. “We want to keep our employees and our guests loyal.”
Schiele said the best candidates for the Voyage Program are students who want to build a career in the hospitality industry, particularly those with hospitality and leadership experience.
She said “soft skills” are also important in the hospitality industry.
“Voyagers are on the floor every day, so they need to dress professionally, communicate clearly and be service-oriented,” she said. “They also need to be prepared and provide a professional resume prior to being interviewed and be prepared for a behavioral-based interview, which is the type of interview we conduct.”
Schiele said Marriott International is pleased to be part of the rebranding and expanded student engagement efforts by Texas A&M’s Department of Hospitality, Hotel Management and Tourism.
“Many students from Texas A&M have been successful in the Voyage Program, and we hope to help them continue their success,” she said. “We also look forward to continuing our long and mutually rewarding relationship with Texas A&M University.”