In October 2019, Johnson & Wales University proudly started an educational partnership with SSA, a Denver-based company that specializes in the management of culinary and retail operations for over 60 different properties. Those properties stretch across the nation, with sites ranging from zoos, aquariums, to museums. That’s why it’s almost a no brainer as to why JWU and SSA make a perfect fit for one another. For SSA employees, a JWU education means industry-tailored programs and courses to help further their career. Meanwhile for Johnson & Wales, SSA employees make the perfect fit, having the tenacity and go-getter mentality that JWU students pride themselves in. However, even though the partnership is still new, the relationship between JWU and SSA runs deep.
The JWU Connection
Benjamin Garcia ’10, a proud alumnus of Johnson & Wales University, now works as the director of catering at the National Western Complex for SSA. In his job, he’s challenged with the task of managing catering for over 650,000 visitors each year. But although being almost a decade removed from graduating with his BS—Sports, Entertainment, Event – Management, Garcia still looks back at his time as a student at JWU with great appreciation, saying it’s ultimately what set him up for success. “Everything was based on real-world examples,” Garcia says. “I not only was learning so much in the classroom, but I was able to live the experience and see it for myself while I was still a student. An experience that no doubt shaped me so that I was ready for the hectic world of hospitality.”
At Johnson & Wales University’s Denver campus commencement in June 2019, Garcia addressed his fellow graduating class. He spoke to the value that furthering your education can have even while you’re already in your career. “Johnson & Wales taught me that knowing enough doesn’t mean you know it all,” he had to say. Adding “learning doesn’t stop in the classroom, it extends into all areas of life.”
Also taking the stage to offer his own words of wisdom was SSA President, honorary alumnus Sean McNicholas ’19. In his speech, McNicholas praised JWU for how prepared its students are when entering the workforce, saying “Johnson & Wales professors teach you to think differently and that’s what we look for at SSA.”
Off-Campus, in a Career
Riley Walton ’16 is another Johnson & Wales student who made her mark with SSA. Today she works for the company as the catering operations manager at the Denver Zoo but she had to work hard to get there. Not only did she graduate with her BS – Baking & Pastry Arts and Food Service Management but she began climbing the corporate ladder even while she was still a student. “I always joke that I keep my JWU alumni pin in my car in case of emergencies because my education has guided me in so many ways,” she says. While pursuing her undergrad she worked as an intern for SSA, an opportunity she still thanks hear alma mater for to this day. “I am that person who goes back to talk to classes and work job fairs because I am so proud of what JWU and SSA has helped me accomplish and I want to share that with students as often as I can.”
If you’re an SSA employee or interested in learning more about corporate education, contact JWU Online Business Development Coordinator Brian Fernandes at [email protected] or at 401-598-5249.