RHM partnership with Ritz-Carlton yields internships and careers

5 – minute read

When Alfonso Diaz applied for internships as an undergraduate at Florida Gulf Coast University’s School of Resort & Hospitality Management, he knew little about ritzy resorts.


Seven years later, the 2019 grad’s resume includes luxury lines like the Four Seasons and The Ritz-Carlton.


His golden ticket into upscale hospitality? The internship the school helped him secure at the latter’s Naples beach resort, where Diaz now works as housekeeping manager.


“I’d never been to a property like this,” he recalls while standing in one of the property’s lavishly appointed restaurants. “It’s second to none.”


The Ritz-Carlton has been “a bedrock” for FGCU since the hospitality degree program launched 20 years ago, according to Michael Collins, the school’s interim director.

FGCU grad Alfonso Diaz
“I had a lot of mentors at FGCU,” says 2019 grad Alfonso Diaz. “They were able to get me into the internships that I was aiming toward."

“It’s always been a premier internship for our students,” Collins says. “Hospitality industry internship sites are a very mixed bag. With this site, we can send students with confidence that they are going to see the best industry practices. You aspire to get employed there.”

And many FGCU graduates have. Collins estimates 47 Eagle alumni are employed at the two Ritz properties in Naples.


Out of over 250 FGCU interns over the last two decades, 83 were hired full time, according to Maribeth McElligott, human resources director of The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples.


“The interns from FGCU have been and continue to be a great talent funnel for our resort,” she says. “We have had interns in almost every department, and the energy and desire to learn and grow is a perfect match for The Ritz-Carlton. We hope to partner for years to come.”

FGCU graduate Anna Neptune
Anna Neptune, a 2023 graduate, interned in the resort’s spa and is now an assistant manager there.

Many Eagles who landed there say their education, connections they forged with faculty and internships coordinated by the school helped open the gilded gate.


“I had a lot of mentors at FGCU,” says Diaz, who also interned at the Hyatt Vacation Club in Bonita Springs. “They were able to get me into the internships that I was aiming toward in certain fields and gave me a wide range of opportunities in all sorts of areas — restaurants, hotels, bartending — everything.”

Anna Neptune, a 2023 graduate, interned in the resort’s spa and is now an assistant manager there. She started working in the food and beverage industry in high school and gained experience in various departments at a country club as an undergraduate. She advises students to take internships seriously.

“You can learn a lot. You can make really great connections,” Neptune says. “And then when you graduate, you could walk into a full-time job.”


After interning as a host at the Ritz, 2020 grad Tatiana Olivares moved into guest relations, cross-trained in other departments and is now assistant operations manager in guest relations. Between the curriculum and the internship experience, she believes FGCU prepared her to succeed.


“The coursework went over every aspect of hotel business, club business, spa business — basically any type of position that you would like to do in hospitality,” Olivares says. “It really prepared me with real-life scenarios of what I see today as a young professional. Even as a manager now, I’m applying what I learned throughout those courses.”

Before joining The Ritz-Carlton, where she’s in-room dining manager, 2018 FGCU grad Winston Winning interned and then worked in various departments at a Naples golf and country club. She says the hospitality school’s faculty and internship coordinator, Jennifer McGurk, has extensive connections in the area’s hospitality community that benefit FGCU students.


“Networking is very important in this industry,” Winning says. “They are able to support you and set you up for success by introducing you to people and sharing their insights for how to become successful. There is an unlimited amount of resources offered to students.”

FGU grad Tatiana Olivares
2020 grad Tatiana Olivares is an assistant operations manager in guest relations at The Ritz-Carlton.
FGCU student Mitchell Curtis
FGCU undergraduate Mitchell Curtis is interning at The Ritz-Carlton.

Resort and hospitality administration majors must have 500 hours of industry experience before interning 500 hours in their chosen area. The RHM school boasts 100% placement for interns, thanks to relationships with over 300 of the area’s finest resorts, hotels, private clubs, spas, restaurants and other hospitality providers.


“One thousand hours of hospitality experience provides students with hands-on learning that combines theoretical knowledge with practical skills, networking opportunities and industry insights,” McGurk says. “It’s an investment in the students’ future careers that can significantly enhance their employability upon graduation. Internships set students up for success.”


When he first met with McGurk, Mitchell Curtis says he had big ideas and goals but wasn’t sure how to accomplish them.


“I said, ‘This is what I want to do, this is what I want to be,’ and she just gave me a clear-cut view of how to get there,” says the FGCU junior interning in the beach resort’s recreation department. “I just want to keep progressing and exploring the hospitality industry as a whole. I would love to continue working in different departments and exploring what there is to offer.”

2018 FGCU grad Winston Winning
2018 FGCU grad Winston Winning says the School of Resort & Hospitality Management's connections in the industry benefit students seeking internships.
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