Joining Niagara University in 2020, adjunct professor Ashley Dukat has more than 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Her experience guides her teaching by offering real-world scenarios for her students in TRM 495, International Destinations & Conventions. We had a chance to speak to her experience inside and outside of the classroom.
What course(s) are you currently teaching? And could you provide a description of the course?
I am teaching TRM 495A, International Destinations & Conventions. Future tourism and event professionals learn how conventions, meetings, and group business will affect their careers as it relates to domestic and international destinations. We take a deep dive into the different marketing techniques used to solicit business, and how to best tailor such techniques to the varying market segments. I do my best do incorporate my real-world experience and showcase the many different career options within the industry, especially for those who wish to travel.
What experience do you have in the hospitality industry?
Quite a bit! I began my career at 21 managing a restaurant with a staff of 25 under me alone. I learned a lot about people management, cash handling, customer service, and business operations when it comes to profit/loss, labor, food ordering, etc. From there my skills within food and beverage gained me a position as a Catering Sales Manager for a convention hotel, where I specialized in soliciting events with at least 400 guests. This is where my passion for events began; seeing the gorgeous room sets, the impressive audio-visual structures, and the overall fluidity of the staff. after a few years at this property an opportunity came up for a new position as Director of Catering for a brand new Hilton property. This was an experience that catapulted me in so many ways; I learned how to open a new property, and not just the catering department. I assisted with the overall operations: Bringing in furniture, getting the POS system set up, readying the front desk, laundry services, etc. I worked as part of a cohesive team all while designing the contracts, layout, equipment, and menus for event services. It wasnt long before I reached my peak after I discovered where the events come from: planners who work on behalf of financial services, healthcare, education, etc. These peoples' sole responsibility was to plan events in all kinds of venues. So, when an opportunity came up with a well-known bank, I jumped at it. I spent 3 years learning the ins and outs of corporate planning; trainings, meetings, board of directors’ events, etc. I also travelled throughout the east coast. I had solidified my passion; but you guessed it: I knew I could do more. I then transitioned into an event planner role with a global technology company where I traveled the world planning meetings, incentive trips, and conventions. I had access to the best resources in the industry and enjoyed incredible perks. After a few years I was burned out with a second baby on the way. So, I decided to leave my position and own up my own event company in my home city.
What drew you back to Niagara?
I have stayed active with the alumni program for the last 5 years or so and every time I was back on campus it just felt like home. The campus is full of beautiful architecture and offers so many amenities. Looking back at my experience as a student, I knew my class size would be small enough that I could offer a more intimate education with an open-door policy. I wanted to know my students by name, not by a number. Not to mention, the hospitality program at NU is rated as one of the best in the country so when asked to teach I jumped at being a part of such an accomplished faculty.
What do you like to do outside of work? Any hobbies, etc.
My life is pretty busy with a 4-year-old and 6-month-old, so my hobbies include a lot of Paw Patrol and patty cake, haha! When I do get time to myself or alone with my husband, we really enjoy cooking, looking for small projects to do around the house, listening to music, and going to the movies.
Learn more about the College of Hospitality, Sport, and Tourism Management.