Melanie Whitaker '01 is the learning and development manager for the Dorchester Collection, three, five-star luxury hotels in the United Kingdom. She oversees training and development for more than 1,100 employees. A study abroad opportunity led her to discover a passion that developed her career.
Melanie Whitaker '01; Learning & Development Manager; Dorchester Collection: My name is Melanie Whitaker. I graduated from Appalachian State University in 2001 with a double major in hospitality & tourism management and marketing.
MW: My life as a student at Appalachian was fantastic. I started out studying chemistry and it was a lot of hard work—I loved it—but I was going to classes, labs, working and my roommate at the time was studying hospitality and she was having the most amazing time. And I thought, "I want to be doing what she's doing." So, I went home one day, dropped all of my science classes—sorry, science—and picked up hospitality classes. And I'm really pleased that I did because it's brought me here.
MW: I ended up in London because I was originally coming over for a friend's wedding. So when I was coming over for the wedding, I decided to send out my resumé. I sent out, probably, over 50 resumés to all different hotels in London and I got just one response. But that did it. I'm the Learning & Development Manager for Dorchester Collection, so for the three hotels here in the U.K.—we have The Dorchester, Coworth Park and 45 Park Lane. That means that I look after the training and the development for over 1,100 employees within the three hotels.
MW: So, we're here in The Dorchester. It's one of the world's finest hotels, opened in 1931. It's the flagship of Dorchester Collection's nine hotels. This room is the penthouse. It was designed by Oliver Messel in the 1950's—he was a very famous theatre designer—and it's a listed room, which means that it's protected, it's part of the heritage. So, a very special place here within The Dorchester.
MW: So, my advice to students—current students or future students—would be, firstly, to take advantage of all that Appalachian has to offer because there's so much. Also, go on a study abroad. If you can take a semester abroad, or even just one of the summer trips to study abroad, do it. Then I think you'll really have the chance to connect with people, connect with the culture, and that's one thing that inspired me then to actually move abroad when I finished my degree.
MW: Hospitality is a fantastic career path. It's brought me to London and I've seen so much more of the world than I would have. Living abroad is amazing. It's been the best experience of my life and it's really changed who I am. I would recommend it to everyone. I've learned so much about other cultures. I've visited so many places in Europe that I never would have had the opportunity to do if I'd stayed in the U.S. So, I would definitely recommend to anyone to go and experience what it's like to live in another country. You won't regret it.
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About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.