Features

Welcome to the Club

Niagara’s student chapter of the Club Management Association of America is preparing the industry’s next generation of leaders

Club management is a profession that is personally fulfilling, can weather economic turns, and offers a good income and many opportunities for advancement. And now, Niagara University is offering students an exceptional opportunity to gain the knowledge and experience needed to succeed in this lucrative field as members of NU’s Club Management Association of America student chapter, which was recently named the best in the nation.

NU CMAA was established four years ago by the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the encouragement of alumni working in the club management business.

“It became readily apparent that we needed to do something for students,” says Dr. William Frye, associate professor in the college and club adviser.

So he decided to learn more about club management. In 2005, Frye, a veteran in hotel management, completed a faculty internship through the Club Foundation that brought him to the national CMAA headquarters in Alexandria, Va. There, he learned more about the industry and the organization, which provides education, networking and professional development opportunities for more than 6,000 managers who work at approximately 4,000 country, golf, city, athletic, faculty, yacht, town, and military clubs throughout the United States. The internship also required him to gain hands-on work experience at one of the member clubs. Once Frye returned to Monteagle Ridge, he launched Niagara’s student organization, which was founded in March of 2006.

Like all student chapters, NU CMAA started out as a colony, a provisional status that is required for a minimum of one year to give the students time to fully develop their chapter. NU CMAA petitioned to become a full-fledged chapter after that year and was granted chapter status in April 2007. Over the next few years, the members continuously improved the organization. They added training sessions and created a Web site and newsletter. They developed strong relationships with the national CMAA, the New York state chapter, and club managers throughout the country. And they traveled to conferences and state chapter meetings and toured clubs.

After only a few years, NU CMAA has proven itself to be a superior student organization that offers educational programming, professional development, networking, and placement opportunities for its members. With a 100 percent placement rate for internships and jobs (for those seeking employment in the club management industry) and 90 percent of those placements at platinum-rated clubs, the NU CMAA is setting the standard for student chapters across the country.

“We are absolutely trendsetters — we set the bar” for the other student chapters, says Frye. “We have continued doing what we’re doing and are finding ways to get better.”

NU CMAA was recognized as Student Chapter of the Year in February at the 83rd annual CMAA World Conference in San Diego after a comprehensive application process that took into consideration factors such as membership, participation rates, and attendance at conferences and educational programs, in addition to a student chapter résumé.

What does it take to be named Student Chapter of the Year? A dedicated student membership that agrees to attend every NU CMAA business meeting, every “Second Wednesday” training session (monthly, hour-long programs that address various aspects of the club management field), and every New York state CMAA meeting in the fall and spring semesters.

“That’s something that sets us apart,” Frye says. “We have 100 percent participation in educational activities.”

Other requirements include participating in all other NU CMAA events and fundraisers, including planning and mexecuting the April educational meeting of the NYS CMAA chapter; collecting toys as part of the “Clubs Collecting for Communities” fundraiser coordinated by the NYS chapter; completing the college’s club management course; becoming trained in TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures for the responsible service of alcohol) and CPR/AED; and completing summer-long internships at private CMAA-recognized clubs every summer semester.

In addition to these mandatory activities, students may choose to attend the national organization’s annual Student Education Conference and World Conference, and many also work at area clubs on a part-time basis throughout the academic year and volunteer for numerous large-scale functions such as weddings, Christmas parties and club-sponsored member events.

“It requires an extensive commitment on the part of students to participate,” Frye acknowledges. “The payoff is when they’re ready to graduate they can get a job in the club management industry with competitive pay and job advancement opportunities. We’re setting them up to be successful — they just have to be willing to play ball.”

Bethany Wood, ’10, former NU CMAA secretary/treasurer, knows firsthand how important actively participating in NU CMAA can be. She is the recipient of scholarships from both the national CMAA and the New York state chapter, and was offered a position as the assistant manager of the Chevy Chase Club’s Winter Center, the organization’s casual dining facility, before she graduated this May.

“There are many skills I have obtained throughout the past four years of being involved in CMAA,” she says. “The most beneficial is the knowledge about the industry. Through the club management class and the educational sessions we attend there is always a lot to learn, which will help me be a successful manager.”

The students’ hard work and commitment have earned them the respect of club managers throughout the state. They are sought-after applicants for both jobs and internships, and this year, the club was retained by the Lockport Town and Country Club to conduct its quinquennial membership survey.

“Everyone wants to be associated with Niagara,” says Frye, noting that many club managers want to know “how can we get Niagara students here?”

Many well-established, high-quality clubs throughout the country have figured that out — Niagara students have been offered internships and jobs with a number of the top clubs in the country.

“Each successive internship is at a more highly recognized club,” Frye explains, noting that the ideal progression leads to a placement at one of the top 200 clubs in the nation, as rated by club managers and presidents, by the summer between junior and senior year. “Nearly all of our students who have completed at least two internships are at platinum-designated clubs by their third year,” Frye says, adding that through their alumni connections and affiliation with the state and national CMAA organizations, Niagara has very strong relationships with several of them, including those in the top 10.

These internships provide valuable hands-on experience for the participants. James Mason, ’10, former NU CMAA president, notes that his internship experience will help him in his future endeavors. “Through my internship opportunities CMAA has provided me at Rolling Rock Club and Chevy Chase Club, I have been able to learn about the industry and better myself for when I graduate.”

The connections forged through these internships and NU CMAA’s networking events are another indispensable benefit of membership.

“Through our interaction with local managers, I have had the opportunity to develop great relationships with managers who have been great mentors and who have been willing to invest their time and energy into our training and education,” says Lauren Kenney, ’10, former NU CMAA vice president and a recipient of the Joe Perdue scholarship. “We also have the chance to attend two conferences each year; one is the student conference and the other is a world conference with managers not only from the states but other countries as well.

Having the opportunity to interact with these managers in a setting such as these conferences has helped me get internships and also learn how to network and interact on their level.”

For Allyson Melchreit, ’09, assistant food and beverage manager at Maidstone Club in East Hampton, N.Y., belonging to NU CMAA directly led to her current position.

“I finished my managerial internship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in November, and at that point I was willing to move anywhere to find the position and experience I needed,” she says. “Several managers that I had met during my time with the NU student chapter had offered to keep a lookout for any open positions they might hear of for me, and were also passing my résumé around to their colleagues. The general manager at Maidstone, a club only 10 miles down the road, had heard that I was looking for a food and beverage position and arranged an interview. While interviewing, I found out that I was spoken highly of by my previous managers, as well as by a classmate of mine from Niagara who was currently employed at Maidstone. Without the internship experience and networking skills I gained from being a member of NU CMAA, I could have never gained the skills and experience necessary to excel in the club industry.”