Auburn University Hospitality Management program to host 27th annual Hospitality Gala in April

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The Auburn University Hospitality Management program will host its signature annual event, the student-planned Hospitality Gala, on April 17 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.

The 27th annual event will begin with a champagne reception and silent auction, followed by dinner prepared by world-renowned guest chefs and winemakers. The evening’s program will honor Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell and Auburn Hospitality Management alumna Catherine Wayman and conclude with a live auction to raise funds in support of Auburn Hospitality Management program educational initiatives.

Students in the two-semester event management course are responsible for planning, organizing, executing and facilitating the gala under the leadership of Associate Professor Alecia Douglas and working closely with the hotel’s leadership team.

Martin O’Neill, head of the Department of Nutrition Dietetics and Hospitality Management in the College of Human Sciences, said the gala puts into practice the culmination of what students learn in the yearlong event management course.

“There is no better learning opportunity for our students than this hands-on experience,” he said. “These skills will prepare them to succeed in the industry and help set them apart when competing for jobs. It is a taste of what they can expect in their careers.”

Sentell will receive the prestigious Horst Schulze Award for Excellence in Hospitality. Under his 17-year tenure, tourism spending has tripled in the state of Alabama. Sentell was the visionary behind the annual “Year Of” campaigns, which have promoted Alabama history, arts, culture and leisure, earning national acclaim. Last November, Sentell saw the Alabama Tourism Department honored as the first American state to be a finalist—and later win—the Best Regional Destination from the International Travel and Tourism Awards in London.

This year’s Outstanding Alumni Award recipient is Wayman, a 2007 Auburn alumna and creative director for C. Wayman Floral & Events in Atlanta. Her distinctive designs and luxury floral arrangements have appeared in film, television, commercials and prestigious industry publications such as Vogue magazine.

Wayman’s work is requested by major brands and celebrities alike for her ability to bring a vision to life through design.

“The Hospitality Gala is a fantastic evening that attendees look forward to year after year,” said Hans van der Reijden, founder and CEO of Ithaka Hospitality Partners. “Our team at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center helps guide the students so that they can experience the full spectrum of responsibilities involved in directing a high-profile event, while ensuring a top-tier experience for guests. We are proud to have the opportunity to help bring it to life alongside these talented students.”

For more information and to purchase tickets for The Hospitality Gala, visit

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.