Graduates Land Careers in Hospitality Management and Technology

Program's alumni shine in the field as industry revs back up

OXFORD, Miss. – The $500 billion global hospitality industry is back in full swing across the country, and two recent University of Mississippi graduates – Amber Schmidt, of Acworth, Georgia, and Taylor Peavey, of Leawood, Kansas – are making the most of the resurging industry across food and beverage and technology sectors.

Schmidt started her career in the manager fast track program for Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in Birmingham, Alabama, while Peavey found her niche as marketing coordinator for North America for Hospitality & Retail Systems, known as HRS.

Amber Schmidt, a graduate of the UM hospitality management program, is in the manager fast track program for Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in Birmingham, Alabama. Submitted photo

“Pappadeaux’s manager fast track program is an amazing opportunity for anyone entering the food and beverage industry,” Schmidt said. “It is a 12-week program that allows you to train in and work every single front-of-house position and then teaches you how to manage those positions.

“For example, my first position was server. I trained as a server as a new server applicant would, then worked a few shifts as a server and then, the following week, acted as the manager, specifically identifying the server’s execution of a perfect service map. I worked as a server, host, bartender, to-go server and busser. At the end of the program, I had a final review with my general manager and upon passing my review, I was officially a floor manager.”

Schmidt’s typical day includes conducting meetings with all front-of-house areas and going over the restaurant’s focus for that week, as well as special cleanups that need to be completed and other important and upcoming information.

“I work closely with the kitchen manager on duty to discuss our daily features and make sure front-of-house and back-of-house staff are on the same page to ensure a smooth shift,” she said. “Once the restaurant opens, my job is to ensure the guest experience is flawless.”

The latter can everything from welcoming guests at the front door and helping servers deliver drinks to coaching bussers to meet their time targets and speaking with guests to make sure their meals are perfect.

Schmidt recently was promoted to kitchen manager-in-training, so she’s busy learning all the back-of-house positions, just as she did for the front-of-house jobs. The hospitality management program prepared her more than she could have imagined, she said.

Her professors, in particular, were knowledgeable in many areas of the industry and willing to discuss what to expect from potential jobs, Schmidt said.

“Throughout the last six months at Pappadeaux’s, I have found myself referring to the restaurant simulator game from Dr. (Mary) Roseman’s class and being thankful for lab with Chef Dru (Jones) and even referencing my event management textbook from Events II with Mrs. (Candis) Varnell,” she said. “If I had to pick one thing that most prepared me from my time in the hospitality program, though, it would have to be the internship hours.”

Schmidt had opportunities to work many different jobs while in Oxford. She worked at King’s Steakhouse, did catering events with Main Event and A&N, and worked events, cafe and front desk at The Inn at Ole Miss.

She also completed an internship at The Sipp in Oxford during her last semester because the department’s Lenior Dining was closed because of COVID shutdowns. Her required 400-hour internship, however, had her serving as catering coordinator at Panera Bread.

“My professors taught me a lot in the classroom, which I am not quick to forget, but the hands-on experience that Ole Miss’ hospitality management program allows their students to have is truly invaluable,” Schmidt said. “My internship hours certainly played a large role in getting me hired in my current position and continue playing a huge role in my advancement in the restaurant.

“Only four months into the job, I began taking over the bar inventory and ordering, which typically takes 8-12 months to learn, but because of my 400-hour internship, I started with a huge advantage.”

Roseman, a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, praised Schmidt for her performance in the classroom.

“Her passion for the hospitality industry in both her class work and attitude toward her studies are exactly what faculty love to see in students,” Roseman said. “She would share what she learned in assignments and how she was going to use it to meet her career goals after graduation.

“Her work ethic, as evidenced in the level of work experience and employers’ evaluation of her performance while at Ole Miss, demonstrated how much she desired to apply what she was learning to real-world settings.”

Taylor Peavey, also a graduate of the hospitality management program, has launched a career as marketing coordinator for North America for Hospitality & Retail Systems. Submitted photo

Peavey echoed Schmidt’s praise for the hospitality management program in preparing her for her role at HRS, a global IT company that serves all sectors of the hospitality industry. It has a large portfolio of products and solutions, including but not limited to point-of-sale systems, property management systems, spa and guest activities management, and 24/7 support.

“My role at HRS is marketing coordinator for North America,” Peavey said. “I handle all of our North American clients, including associations, large and small events, sales documents and presentations, webinars, some social media, digital and print advertising, graphic design, website content, and more.

“Thanks to the curriculum, the HM program showed us that hospitality is everywhere and the career paths are limitless. Because of this, it really taught me to keep an open mind when job searching. When I started at HRS, I had very little real-life experience in a majority of the hospitality industry and though I did not have the chance to take any of the hospitality IT classes that are offered now, it turns out I knew a lot more than I thought because of my previous classes.”

Peavey attributes much of her success to her professors and the interesting content they brought to the classroom, as well as the exposure students get to many fields within the industry.

“When most people think of the hospitality field, they think hotels and restaurants,” Peavey said. “They forget to think of amusement parks, casinos, cruise lines, travel, IT and so much more.

“The (hospitality management) program shows you that there are very little limitations in the industry, and it opens many doors for students.”

Peavey said she found her job through a post on the Ole Miss hospitality management program’s Facebook page.

“None of my friends who graduated from other programs have active FB group pages where people post open jobs,” she said. “I definitely think that this is something that makes the HM program special.”

Roseman commended Peavey for applying what she learned in her coursework and internship to grow her confidence to explore lesser-known areas of the industry.

“Because hospitality separates itself from other business by being all about service, there is an abundance of jobs,” Roseman said. “Taylor pursued a lesser-known aspect of hospitality, like HRS, that most students would not think of while enrolled in the program.

“Jobs in support areas of hospitality such as marketing, technology, human resources, food manufacturing and spa management are great careers within major hospitality companies. Taylor’s ambition demonstrates a wonderful trait of taking risk and creative exploration that are needed in young leaders today.”

For more information about the hospitality management program at UM, visit or email Mary Roseman at