ICE Students Gain Invaluable Real-World Insight at Hilton Corporate Headquarters

February 2016

How do you come up with a marketing campaign that is relevant and welcoming to all members of a vibrant 21st century America?

Seeking insight into this complex and nuanced question, some 65 third-year McIntire students spent Oct. 30, 2015, at the McLean, Va., headquarters of international lodging sector leader and ICE corporate partner Hilton Worldwide. Challenged by Hilton to devise just such a campaign, the students were granted the invaluable opportunity to see and hear, firsthand, what makes Hilton one of the world's leading hospitality companies.

The daylong trip included a meeting with Hilton's Andrew Flack, Vice President of Global Brand Marketing, and Andréa Richardson, Director of Resorts & Multicultural Marketing; a talk followed by an extensive question-and-answer session given by Chris Nassetta (McIntire '84), CEO and President of Hilton Worldwide; and an instructive session with Sean Strachan, Campus Recruiting Manager. The students also heard from highly regarded consultant, business thought leader, and bestselling author David Nour, CEO of The Nour Group, and had the chance to learn from the banquet and housekeeping leaders who help to ensure that all guests' Hilton experience is one of uncompromising quality.

"This was a tremendous opportunity for students to gain an in-depth understanding of Hilton's value proposition to guests—and in turn, to refine their thinking in terms of how to best communicate that value to potential guests," says McIntire Management Professor Gary Ballinger, who accompanied the students on the trip. "We are incredibly grateful to the numerous Hilton executives and professional staff who so generously shared their time and expertise with our students, and who worked so hard to make this a fantastic real-world learning experience."

Ballinger voiced his particular appreciation for Nassetta's hour-long interactive discussion with students, during which he offered key insights into such vital subjects as what it takes to achieve career success and fulfillment; the importance of an organization's goals, values, and culture; and how to lead and motivate others. Nassetta also reflected on the students' multicultural marketing project for Hilton: "The biggest mistake I see is leaders who surround themselves with people who are just like they are," Nassetta told the students. "It's easy and comfortable—and it yields bad results."

The Integrated Core Experience (ICE), McIntire's innovative third-year core curriculum, is carefully constructed to give students a vantage into the world of business from multiple angles, integrating the analytic, strategic, and behavioral skills they'll need to tackle real-world problems. McIntire's corporate partners play a critical role in the ICE program, challenging students not only to develop comprehensive, well-researched solutions to current business problems, but also to effectively communicate those solutions during a polished 30-minute presentation to corporate executives. In addition to Hilton Worldwide, the School's ICE corporate partners include Alcoa, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Rolls-Royce.

For ICE student Jacob Zodikoff (McIntire '17), the trip offered a number of eye-opening lessons. "Our time at Hilton enabled us to better understand the inner workings of a huge corporation," Zodikoff says. "We were able to look deeply into the analysis that goes on behind the scenes, and to hear firsthand accounts of some of the reasoning behind business decisions made by Hilton Worldwide." But perhaps the greatest takeaway, Zodikoff says, "was the realization that what we are doing in our projects at McIntire is truly relevant and applicable in the professional world—and that I'll leave the School ready to make a meaningful contribution to that world."

Indeed, says Ballinger, McIntire's corporate partners play a vital role in the ongoing success of the ICE program. "Our corporate partners bring the real world into the classroom, enabling us to continue providing McIntire students with an integrative, high-relevance education that prepares them not only for careers marked by success, but by global business leadership."