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photo collage of van den Berg Hall, the clock tower, Dean Hadi Salavitabar, and undergraduate student Jumpei Onozuka

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SUNY New Paltz Business Students Visit Mohonk Mountain House


SUNY New Paltz Business Students Visit Mohonk Mountain House

By Shaun Hoff

In March 2005 students from the School of Business at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz participated in a company visit to Mohonk Mountain House located in New Paltz, New York. The Management Association, a student association in the School of Business, arranged this visit consisting of a company tour and discussion with Mohonk's personnel department. Existing since 1869, Mohonk Mountain House is a historic New York hotel that offers its guests a combination of relaxation, recreation, and renewal, as well as beautiful natural surroundings. The President of Mohonk Mountain House, Albert Smiley, serves on the Business Advisory Council (BAC) of the School of Business at SUNY New Paltz.

Over twenty student attendees toured Mohonk's operations in areas including its hotel and banquet rooms, gift shop, kitchen, dining room, and guest service facilities. Students then met with Mohonk's personnel department in the Cliff View meeting room for a panel discussion. The discussion included topics such as Mohonk's mission of recreating mind, body, and spirit for its customers, how a company is run, and human resources (HR) issues that exist in the hotel service industry. Mohonk achieves a competitive advantage by offering numerous activities for families, such as a massage center, 85 miles of hiking trails, cross country skiing trails, horse carriage rides, an art gallery, and nightly entertainment. A recent development for Mohonk includes building a 30,000 square-foot wing for its Mohonk Spa and Fitness Center. This new facility costing over $13 million dollars will include a full-size fitness center, indoor swimming pool, and spa. This facility, opening in Summer 2005, is an example to students of the continuous improvement efforts Mohonk engages in to maintain success in the hospitality industry, which is the second largest industry in the United States. Several years ago, in order to accommodate weather fluctuations during the winter season and remain a winter resort, Mohonk constructed an 18,000 square foot Pavilion with an ice skating rink. Similarly, since Mohonk operates in an industry with many peaks and valleys, students also discussed Mohonk's other strategic objectives including generating 25% of its business from conferences and providing over 40 theatrical themed programs a year.

Mohonk's Assistant Director of Personnel, Paul Cunningham, has been in the hotel industry for over thirty years and described staffing issues Mohonk encounters. In addition to Mohonk Mountain House employing over 300 staff members in diverse occupations, such as marketing, security, and guest services, their organization also has its own landscape, post office, and fire brigade departments. To deal with year-round and seasonal employment Mohonk works with the Culinary Institute of America to offer "externships" for students to finish their cooking certificate programs for several weeks at Mohonk. In addition, its personnel department also grants hiring and training opportunities to international students for two to three months a year.

Another topic that attendees from SUNY New Paltz discussed with professionals included Mohonk's emphasis on customer service and on-the-job training for new and current employees. In many departments, such as in reservations, new employees go through an intensive training process before they actually interact with customers. Mohonk has developed a formal system for gauging customer opinions and perceptions of Mohonk's customer service. Characteristics that Mohonk desires in its employees include a positive attitude, good communication skills, customer skills, and the ability to enjoy their job. Finally, Mohonk's benefit package was described to students and includes dormitory-style housing and meals for employees at a modest fee. Employees also have access to guest services, reduced rates, personal hours, employee events, a credit union, a 401k retirement plan, and health/life insurance.

Overall, the students had a great experience witnessing everyday business operations and the human resource function in a real-world situation. Most notably, students will remember this visit as a unique opportunity to meet and interact with an entire personnel department. To learn more about Mohonk Mountain House please visit its web site at For more information about the Management Association, the SUNY New Paltz student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), please visit