Alumna Francois Reflects on Time at SHRM and her Master’s Program in Italy

Posted: Friday, October 14th 2016 at 4:50 AM

Alumna Noelle Francois graduated in May 2016 with an HRM degree and a certificate in Event Management from NAU’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management (SHRM). She is now pursuing her master’s in Italy. Here she discusses the impact her time at SHRM had on her professional life and graduate studies.

Please give a brief overview of your professional progress after graduation.

As someone who knew the hospitality industry was my calling from a young age, I never really considered furthering my education past a hospitality degree. In the industry, it is more common to work your way from the bottom of the totem pole up than it is to get a masters or PhD. However, when I was studying abroad my junior year at NAU in Athens, Greece at DEREE, The American College of Greece, my thoughts changed. I really enjoyed my time spent abroad and knew that I wanted to live and study in Europe again. I just had to convince myself and my parents there was a way to do so! So, I began researching options to further my education. I have always had a personal interest in cooking and baking, and was really inspired by Chef Mark's culinary class. That led me to find a master's certificate program in Italian Cuisine.

The certificate is through Apicius International School of Hospitality, housed by Florence University of the Arts in Florence, Italy. The program is fully accredited by the University of South Florida. The program is a one academic year (2 semester) program that combines theoretical and practical components. The school owns a completely student-run restaurant that we spend time in the Back of House, or kitchen, fulfilling the practical lessons for this masters. There are only 3 other students in this program.

Did you participate in any extracurricular activities during your years as an undergraduate that you feel prepared you for graduate school?

I definitely kept myself involved during my time at SHRM. I was member of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH), which has certainly prepared me to appreciate diversity and differences in the school and work place. The three other students in my program all come from different areas of the world (one from Turkey, one from China, and one from Colombia), so there were some big cultural, personality, and experience gaps that we have had to overcome and try to work as a team. NSMH definitely helped me appreciate other's differences and learn how to work cohesively.

I was also a SHRM Student Ambassador, which helped further develop my communication and interpersonal skills. These have come in handy when I have had to present and receive critiques by a panel for dishes that I and the other masters have prepared.

Finally, I was a member of the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE), which really helped me network and stay connected to the catering and events world. My goal is to go into catering, so NACE has ensured that I have a huge network of professionals that I can learn from and connect with.

How did your years as a SHRM student prepare you for graduate school?

SHRM is a very well-rounded hospitality school in my opinion. I took classes to learn about not only food handling and service, hotel operations, and business, but I also took classes that I know have come in handy in my specific master's program. For example, my knowledge on Italian wines and cheeses from both Dr. Wallace Rande's wine class and Ms. Jo's (Julene Boger’s) cheese class gave me a base to build on during my time in Italy. I also think that classes like Food Cost Control and Hospitality Finance have definitely prepared me better than the three other students in my program. I have knowledge on how to manage costs in a business already, whereas this is newer to my counterparts, who all have culinary degree backgrounds. Finally, the leadership and writing courses that SHRM taught me helped develop me into a good team player, and a well-spoken student.

Francois will finish her master’s program in May 2017. After she graduates, Francois plans to return home to Scottsdale, Arizona and find work. Her ultimate goal is to own her own catering business and venue.

Categories: noelle francois alumni spotlight chef mark molinaro mark molinaro 2016 fall 2016 alumni global spotlight