Entertaining and Educating at the Grand Rapids Wine Festival

Engage with the West Michigan Woman Community!

Those who have previously attended the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival (being held this year on November 18-19, 2022 at DeVos Place) may have noticed all the smiling faces offering samples of wine, beer, cider, spirits and more. What attendees may not have known is that many of these are hospitality and culinary students from Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University and the Culinary Institute of Michigan – Muskegon.

Since the festival's founding in 2008, these educational institutions and their passionate leaders have helped provide an unparalleled festival experience. And while these students provide a vitally important element to the festival—pouring samples—it's also an educational experience for them. These students not only rub elbows with industry leaders like winemakers, brewers, distributors and the like, but they also gather valuable customer service skills that will aid them in their future careers. For some, the networking opportunities lead to full time jobs and fulfilling careers within the thriving beverage and culinary tourism industries in Michigan and beyond.


The FSU Hospitality Management Program, under the College of Business, is based upon a solid business curriculum with a focus on managing service-oriented operations. With rigorous academic coursework, hands-on experience, frequent field trips, classroom guest speakers, registered student organizations (RSO), worldwide internship placements and industry-experienced faculty, this program offers students access to gaining knowledge and experiences that can be applied to their professional development and network within the hospitality industry.

Ferris currently offers a Bachelor's Degree in Hospitality Management; an Associate's Degree in Restaurant and Food Industry Management; Minors in Event Management or Hotel/Restaurant and Food Industry Management; and Certificates in Club Management, Event Management, Restaurant and Food Industry Management and/or Ski Resort Management.

Amy M. Dorey has been a professor with Ferris since 2002 and in 2018, she was appointed the Director for the Hospitality Management Program. From 2008 until 2017, she was also Student Program Coordinator & On-Site Supervisor for the Festival.

"Since inception, the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival has been an advocate for student education and empowerment of young professionals in our industry," said Dorey. "The opportunity to work alongside industry experts stretches the minds of student leaders as they witness innovation in product and service experience designed to engage guests of the festival. These students benefit from this partnership in so many ways, including onsite offers for internships and post-graduate positions as employers are able to witness firsthand the passion for delivering experience found in our students.

"The student's vision of their future is enhanced as they begin to fully understand the scope of work available for them within hospitality management. It is a truly exciting way to learn!"


Grand Valley's Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM), under the School of Community Leadership and Development, is a dynamic program that encompasses a wide variety of career opportunities within the vast hospitality industry.

Majors are offered in Meeting & Event Management, Food & Beverage Management, Lodging Management, and Tourism Management, while minors can focus on specific interest areas like Cannabis Operations Management or Adventure Tourism. Students who graduate from this GVSU program are well qualified for jobs in convention sales/service, hotel/resort management and service, special events, food and beverage management, human resources, catering and conference sales.

Kristen Jack, Ph.D., has served as an Assistant Professor of Hospitality & Tourism Management since 2003 after putting in more than a decade in the industry in a variety of hotel positions. Today, she is also Program Director for the Hospitality & Tourism Management program.

"The festival is a great opportunity for our students," said Jack. "First of all, it is a great way to get them into the convention center to work and be a part of a large event. Instead of just attending, they get to see what goes on behind the scenes and learn a great deal about that aspect. Secondly, by pouring they learn about different wines, spirits, beers etc. and how to talk about them to guests and pour properly."

By working at a booth, Jack explains that students also get to network with not only the vendor they are working for, but also the other vendors around them, and sometimes guests of the event who spend time at the booth.

"Several students have even gotten internships through networking or impressing the organization they were working with," Jack continued. "Finally, because it is a paid volunteer position, (by group not by individual) the student HTM club is able to take that money and pay for additional experiences for students within the club. We have been participating for many years, and students always speak very highly of the experience and encourage new students to participate when the next year rolls around!"


The Culinary Institute of Michigan (CIM) Muskegon provides students with real-world, hands-on experience by running its restaurant, COURSES, and its on-site pastry and coffee shop, The Sweet Spot, both of which are open to the public. Students study under award-winning chefs and instructors, work with top-of-the-line equipment, and get an education based on programs which have earned accreditation from the American Culinary Federation (ACF).

With its small class size and modern facilities and labs, equipped with the latest tools and technology used on the job by industry professionals, these students are well trained by the time they graduate and seek employment.

"The Culinary Institute values the partnership with the festival for a multitude of reasons," said Jamie Sowa, CIM-Muskegon Program Director. "Our students gain the opportunity to apply skills learned in school, while networking with various guests, restaurateurs, and chefs."

As a compliment to her culinary work, Sowa is deeply passionate about matters of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and is active in many community service programs to help bring awareness to these important issues.

"The work of DEI is meaningful because there are so many people to learn from worldwide," Sowa explained. "There is a place for every person in this profession, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability, socioeconomic background or education. In my 20-plus year career in the hospitality sector, my admiration and love for our differences has grown."

Learn more by visiting the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival.

Courtesy of ShowSpan.


More stories you'll love