/Valerie Salter

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So far Valerie Salter has created 5 blog entries.

HMT Student Interns with the Academy of Country Music

Natchitoches, La. (NSU Press Release) For most college graduates seeking their first job, relevant experience will likely be replaced by flowery language about work ethic and dedication.

But Northwestern State University senior Leighann Westfall won’t have that problem.

The hospitality management and tourism major in the Louisiana Scholars’ College, interned with the Academy of Country Music awards show this past spring in Los Angeles before her summer internship with the CenturyLink Center in Shreveport.

Westfall wasn’t just on the West Coast rubbing elbows with some of her favorite country music stars — she played a key role in visible features of the show’s production and organization.

“I did the whole signage plan and the transportation for the awards show,” Westfall said. “I organized how artists got from the show to the festival and back to their hotel.

“I worked on the overview schedule throughout my internship as well. On the awards show side, it was just my boss and I. I had real projects and real responsibilities.”

Westfall communicated with artists and their managers to relay show details and schedules.

“In my NSU role working with first-year experience and being a freshman connector, you learn the details of putting on an event — things like how to set up a check-in,” Westfall said. “But I hadn’t interacted with business professionals on that level.

“It was really cool learning how to conduct meetings and phone calls, even write emails professionally.”

The groundwork for the ACM internship was laid at NSU when she and a group of 10 students volunteered at the ACM awards show in Dallas in the spring of 2015.

Westfall worked on the festival side that year, learning the ins and outs of the process while networking with NSU alums Dwayne Jones and Brandi Brammer.

“I knew how the event worked after that experience, and I learned about the series of events that were put on leading up to the awards show,” Westfall said. “We had a weekly operations meeting, and I was able to offer input (in Los Angeles) when some of the other interns couldn’t because I had been a part of those meetings (in Dallas).

“I met my (Los Angeles) boss in Dallas, and people like Dwayne and Brandi (former ACM employees) recommended me and told me what I needed to do to get the internship.”

Westfall’s dream is to be an event planner in the sports entertainment industry, and she transferred her awards show experience into a successful stint with the CenturyLink in Shreveport this past summer.

“Developing a signage plan and an overall plan were pretty similar between the two internships,” Westfall said. “The biggest difference is at an arena, people are coming to you for events. At the ACMs, I was reaching out to people to communicate details and schedules.

“Now I have experience on a few different sides of the entertainment industry.”

The Houston native would love to work for Minute Maid Park or NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans, respectively.

Westfall wished her internships would have been closer to her graduation date so she could have accepted job offers from both places.

But she wouldn’t change anything about her college choice or experience, which she believes has prepared her for future success.

“One of the reasons I came to NSU was because I thought I would be able to get experience in so many different things,” Westfall said. “I’ve had so many roles in Phi Mu, being a freshman connector and with first-year experience.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to do all that at a bigger university.”

HMT & Culinary Arts Host 2016 International Cultural Festival

By: Kevin Shannahan

After a three year hiatus, the Northwestern State University School of Business Hosptality Management Tourism & Culinary Arts Program hosted its long awaited International Cultures and Cuisines Festival this past Tuesday on Front Street in Natchitoches. The street fair featured booths in which costumed NSU students represented various countries around the world, serving samples of wines and cuisines from that nation. The French contingent of Morgan Lasyone, Janna Baldwin and Demmi O’Donnell entertained the crowd with a can-can dance while Columbian international student Orlando Enrique Gonzalez Trucco and his band sang and played Spanish music for the enthusiastic & dancing crowd. Staff from the Cane River National Heritage Area and Fort St. Jean Baptiste offered crafts for the younger festival goers.


HMT student featured in LRAEF spotlight

NATCHITOCHES – Rachel McKenna Opbroek of Keithville was featured in the Student Spotlight section of the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation newsletter. Opbroek is a freshman majoring in hospitality management and tourism with a concentration in travel and tourism. She completed the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s ProStart program as a student at Caddo Magnet High School in Shreveport and as a freshman entering NSU earned one of the organization’s scholarships.

“Opbroek has demonstrated her passion and dedication to the culinary and hospitality industry throughout her first year at Northwestern State,” according to the Spotlight. She credited her experience with the ProStart program with adding to her technical knowledge and passion for cooking and baking. She hopes to land an internship with Walt Disney and pursue opportunities in the job market there. She also believes that travel, tourism and culinary industry in Louisiana will continue to grow.

The LREA’s purpose is to enhance the industry’s service to the public through education, community engagement and promotion of career opportunities.

NSU’s HMT program is housed under the university’s School of Business in the College of Business and Technology and offers concentrations in culinary arts, hospitality services and travel and tourism. For information on programming, visit

HMT students studying in France this spring

HMTstudents1bgNATCHITOCHES, La. (NSU Press Release) – Three Northwestern State University students are spending their spring semester abroad at Université D’Angers in France where they hope the experience of living abroad will enhance their coursework in hospitality management and tourism. University D’Angers is the third second largest hospitality school in the world.

Alexander Anderson of Pineville, Hannah Haigh of Robeline and Savanah Meredith of Haughton will begin classes later this month. The classes will be taught in English, but all three hope to improve their French language skills and learn to adapt to a different culture through immersion.

Anderson, a senior, hopes to gain a better view of different cultures, history, language and cuisine.

“Language and communication, tourism and culture studies are the classes that I will be taking,” he said. “This will be a whole new world with different people and way of life.”

“I hope to gain more knowledge about the culture, learn how to adapt in a completely different environment, hopefully learn a few things about myself, learn some French, and — fingers crossed — figure out what I want to do for a career,” said Meredith, a junior. “I have never travelled outside of the country, which is why I have always been intrigued by the idea of studying abroad. I have always wanted to travel as I was never able to growing up. I believe traveling is an experience needed in order to become a more well-rounded individual.”

“I hope to learn much about the French culture and how they live,” said Haigh, a sophomore. “My goal in life has always been to travel and broaden my horizons because life is short and there is so much to learn. I will be taking courses in French culture and language, Loire Valley Castles, Food Culture Management, marketing wine and related products, and tourism destination.”

Haigh was born in England and has visited that country many times as well as visiting Paris.

“My family and I have always traveled, and I absolutely love it,” she said. “I have always known that traveling the world is what I want to do, and knew hospitality management and tourism was the perfect major for me. I have always been told that talk is cheap, and if you want to do it then do it. If you get the opportunity to go somewhere to learn something new, never hesitate because you will regret it in the long run. I know that this Study Abroad Program will be very rewarding in every aspect of my life, and I am really looking forward to it.”

“We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity these students are taking advantage of,” said Valerie Salter, HMT instructor. “I am planning for them to Skype with my study tour prep class on a weekly basis and also plan on creating a blog so that they can update and provide vlogs throughout their experience there.”

Travel experiences available to students through the HMT program are invaluable in training them for the industry, Salter said.

“Students will be immersed in French culture, study European tourism, travel on field trips to Loire Valley destinations and take French language courses,” Salter said. “In addition, they will be centrally located in France and able to explore major tourism destinations on their own. This immersion and coursework provide our students with real world and first hand tourism knowledge that will give them a marketable advantage upon graduation.”

Salter said HMT faculty plan to continuing their partnership with Université d’Angers to receive French students and send NSU students to France again in Spring 2017. She has worked with colleagues in NSU’s Department of English, Foreign Language and Cultural Studies to create more study abroad opportunities for students.

“We are certainly interested in any study abroad opportunities that enrich our students’ college careers and their marketability,” Salter said. “I am aware of agreements that are already in place between NSU and the University of Valencia in Spain, and I plan to start checking into placing students there. We hope to add more study abroad destinations in the near future.”