Auburn Hotel and Restaurant Management students earn internships at world’s best hotel

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Four Auburn University students are spending their summer at what Travel + Leisure magazine considers the best hotel in the world.

It isn't for vacation though.

John David Hammond, Andrew Tarwater, Brinson Brown and Danielle Cannady, all in Auburn's Hotel and Restaurant Management, or HRMT, program in the College of Human Sciences, will be interning at the Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Montana. Brown and Cannady received their degrees in May; Hammond and Tarwater will get theirs in August.

The group says they earned the unique summer jobs by attending the Hotel and Restaurant Management program's annual career fair. Out of the nearly 30 hospitality companies present, they each sought out and interviewed with Kyle Whyard, Triple Creek's general manager.

"This is a wonderful accomplishment for our students, but it also shows how well our program is performing overall," said Auburn Assistant Professor David Martin.

The quartet and Martin give much credit to Bennett Elcan, who interned at Triple Creek last summer before graduating in the fall.

"I do believe having Bennett working there benefited us because Triple Creek now knows what an Auburn HRMT student is going to bring and it is top tier," said Tarwater.

Brown, a friend of Elcan, said Triple Creek didn't have a representative at the HRMT career fair in 2014, but Elcan had such a strong interest in interning there, she tracked Whyard down in Atlanta.

"She was proactive because she wasn't lucky enough to have them come to our career fair," said Brown. "She went out on her own and got the internship that she wanted. I truly thank Bennett because if it wasn't for her telling the general manager that they needed to go to Auburn's career fair, I wouldn't be in the boat that I am in now."

That proverbial boat has Brown and her classmates spending nearly six months in Darby, a small town more than 2,000 miles away from the familiarity of Auburn's campus. Located in the Bitterroot Mountains of Western Montana, Darby is billed as picturesque and charming, with endless recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.

While some consider Darby to be in the middle of nowhere, others see it as a serene and private get-away. For the Auburn foursome, Montana was enticing. Only Tarwater had been to Big Sky Country before; Hammond and Brown had been out west.

"This is an opportunity to move across the country and work in an amazing environment that I may never have the chance to work at again," explained Hammond. "Also, it's an incredible opportunity to work for one of the best hotels in the world."

Triple Creek has appeared on Travel + Leisure's World's Best list annually since 2010, achieving the top spot in 2014.

As interns, the students will spend time working in the different areas of the hotel, from front desk to food and beverage to engineering and housekeeping.

"The ultimate goal is to get hands-on in as many of the different operational areas of the hotel to better understand how it all works," said Hammond.

"As a student I have gained a great deal of restaurant experience, but not as much in lodging," added Cannady. "Hopefully, this experience will make me a more rounded professional and give me an edge on applicants in the hospitality market."

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