Mentoring Program Newsletter Archive: May 2005

Feature Story

Lea Ann Kish ’87 HRIM (Chief Operating Officer, Milestone Hospitality International) and Courtney Bliss ’04

In 2004, Courtney Bliss was a junior at Penn State who had just decided to major in hotel, restaurant and institutional management. Little did she imagine that, just one year later, she would be employed at one of the properties owned by her mentor’s company, Milestone Hospitality International.

“I felt that I wasn’t as knowledgeable about the hospitality industry as I should have been,” Courtney says. “I have gotten tons of practical advice and experience from Lea Ann that I wouldn’t have gotten had I not signed up for the [mentoring] program. Through Lea Ann, I’ve learned everything from how a hotel operates to how her own company operates. Because of her, I’ve become more aware of certain aspects of the hospitality industry that I had never considered.”

Lea Ann has been happy to share her expertise, lend an ear and offer advice. The two have discussed everything from Lea Ann’s career path, to job descriptions and expectations, to resume writing, interviewing and self assessment. After communicating for awhile via e-mail, Lea Ann offered Courtney an internship at one of her company’s properties. Courtney also visited two properties during Spring Break in 2004 and 2005. She is now employed as a conference services manager at the Hilton Washington DC/Silver Spring, the property that she visited earlier this year.

What prompted Lea Ann to give back to Penn State – and more specifically her protégé – in such an extraordinary way? “I have always been so proud of my Penn State education,” she says. “I jumped at the opportunity to be involved with the Mentoring Program because I wanted to offer my valuable career experiences with someone who would benefit from it. To the extent that I can exploit the wide array of opportunities available in the lodging industry, I felt it my obligation to do so.

“The mutual benefit (of the Mentoring Program) can’t be quantified,” Lea Ann continues. “I have learned much from Courtney and have a better sense of how the Penn State hotel and restaurant program has evolved over the years. To know that you have been a positive influence to someone who otherwise would not have had the opportunity is personally and professionally satisfying.”

Courtney credits her participation in the Mentoring Program with helping her learn all aspects of the hospitality industry. “I have gotten tons of practical advice and experience from Lea Ann that I wouldn’t have gotten had I not signed up for the program,” she says. Perhaps more importantly, however, Courtney says that she has “gained someone I can respect, look up to and seek guidance from.”

Lea Ann hopes that she has instilled in Courtney a desire to give back to others by becoming a mentor someday. “You can’t place a value on the education and experience you exponentially gain when learning from others,” she says. Courtney encourages current and future protégés to take full advantage of the mentoring experience. “Take the time to get to know your mentor,” she advises. “Keep in touch with your mentor as often as you can and don’t be afraid to bother them; that’s what they are there for. Soak up all the knowledge and advice their mentor has to offer because you never know when it will be useful.”

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Topics of the Month

For protégés to ask mentors: What can I do to prepare for a job interview? What are some questions that employers frequently ask?

For mentors to ask protégés: Have you ever had a job interview? Was it generally a positive or negative experience? What do you know now that you wish you knew before the interview? What resources do you need in order to prepare for future interviews?

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Featured Photos

Mentors and Students
Allison Menges and her protege Morgan Plecenik
Mentors and Students
Heather Wilson de Vasquez and her protege Andrew Walk
Mentors and Students
Raymond Coward, dean of the College of Health and Human Development; and Paula Milone-Nuzzo, director of the School of Nursing, meet with the new nursing mentors

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Upcoming events at Penn State:

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Special Alumni Notes

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Helpful Links:

Daily Collegian:

Penn State Newswires (subscribe): 

College of Health and Human Development Homepage:

Penn State Live (daily news from Penn State):

Penn State Alumni Association Homepage:

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Mentoring Newsletter Archive

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