Casey Colliflower, M.S. in Hospitality Management, 2015
Aug 08, 2022, 10:00 AM.
An alumnus, who works at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, looks back at the applicability and value of his coursework in improving the bottom line.
Casey Colliflower followed his undergraduate degree with his master’s to further his knowledge in an industry he loves. After almost a decade later, and several promotions later, he still has passion for the hospitality industry. His drive to stay in the field he loves spurred his desire to continue his education. In the following, Colliflower recounts his experience as a graduate student, fully online, with FIU.
What is your degree area of study and when did or do you graduate?
I have a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications & Advertising, which followed with the Master of Science in Hospitality Management from FIU. When I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I found myself working a hotel desk job just because I needed work and, within a year or so, realized this space is where I’m meant to be. I graduated from FIU in 2015.
Where do you work now? What do you do?
Currently, I’m about 10 years into the hospitality industry professionally and have essentially stayed within hotel operations with a short stint in group sales. I’m currently the manager of VIP services at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa – one of the largest casino resorts in the entire country and one of the most profitable in the entire world. The Seminole Tribe of Florida is an absolutely amazing employer.
What was your favorite class and why?
To be quite honest, my favorite “class” is the actual work environment itself. There’s nowhere better you can get hands-on training and knowledge than with authentic real-world experiences and situations. The industry is a customer-first, experience-based environment where the people skills can only improve with true practice. It’s a “people” industry rather than a “product” industry. It’s the business of being “human” with a touch of service and expectation in every execution.
What immediately applicable skills did you learn?
I was fortunate enough to be about five years into the professional hospitality world when I enrolled in the master’s degree program. Entering the program, my skill set and knowledge was growing and expanding for sure, but it definitely excelled during my time as a student in the program. Learning and developing my skills in hotel yield, revenue, and occupancy—essentially the bottom line—I found immediately applicable. While I can win over any guest put in front of me, it truly takes more than that to maintain a thriving hospitality business. While I’m here to put smiles on my team members’ and guests’ faces, there is still money needed to be made!
How does your degree help you in your work or how do you see it helping you in the future?
Above all, the degree is reflective of my passion for this industry. I’ve often heard that “one doesn’t need college to thrive in the hospitality industry!” However, one who submerses themselves in an educational curriculum such as this is truly here for the right reasons – the guest experience, and to become as well-rounded as possible in this industry. There are so many facets to managing hospitality from a people and procedure standpoint that it takes several hats to effectively grow and make an impact.
Why did you decide to study this area and choose this program?
I was advised that pursuing this degree would truly set my resume apart from others. That it would give me an honest leg up on the competition. I already enjoyed what I was doing so it wasn’t any sort of burden to my growth. It was an exciting challenge.
What did you learn that you didn’t expect?
I found the hospitality law portion of the curriculum to be very intriguing. But honestly, the encouragement I was given to pursue this was met with reassured feelings that I belong in this career path and I made the right choice.
Would you recommend this program to other students?