Hospitality Students Display Skills at SMASH Event, Complete With Drones and Virtual Reality

SMASH is the annual signature event of the year for students in Bumpers College's hospitality innovation program.
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SMASH is the annual signature event of the year for students in Bumpers College's hospitality innovation program.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Andrew Lipson of Chartwells, and students Gordon Xiong and Clarissa Mason were the big winners at the recent SMASH signature event of the year for the U of A's hospitality innovation program.

SMASH — Students Mastering the Art of Southern Hospitality — was April 14 in the Arkansas Union, and it included drones and a virtual reality ride. The fine dining fundraiser showcases the talents and skills of students in the hospitality innovation program, which is part of the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Science's School of Human Environmental Sciences.

"Going to events such as SMASH fill me with school pride," said Betsy Garrison, professor and HESC director. "Everyone involved put so much hard work into this event and it's amazing to see what the students can accomplish. The transformation of the Union Verizon Ballroom was absolutely jaw dropping, and I loved the use of drone technology and the virtual reality chair. It's great to see the students get real, hands-on experience to use in their future careers."

Lipson, resident district manager for Chartwells, the Education Sector of the Compass Group, received the Friends of the Pineapple Award. The pineapple is the international symbol for hospitality. Lipson, who has served as an executive in residence with the hospitality program and worked with many students, joined Chartwells in 2004 and has been at the U of A since 2014.

Xiong, a senior in hospitality innovation, received the George and Karen Terrell Memorial and Endowed Scholarship, and Mason earned the program's Outstanding Senior award.

The Terrell scholarship is named for the parents of 2011 hospitality and restaurant management graduate Lonnie Terrell. Terrell was involved in the first three Class Act events (the previous name of SMASH) and his parents attended each one. They passed away not long after the 2011 event and the endowed scholarship was established in their honor to go to a deserving undergraduate student each year. The family selects the scholarship recipient.

Close to 100 guests attended the event, which was coordinated by students, who managed all details involving food, design and logistics. Guests chose between five food stations around the room with food prepared by students in the Cultures and Cuisines of the World class.

"This was our first year hosting SMASH on campus and it was very successful," said Dede Hamm, hospitality instructor. "We collected almost $9,000 and received more than $16,000 in in-kind donations from events and hospitality vendors in Northwest Arkansas. Students chose the theme and transformed Verizon Ballroom into a futuristic venue with a virtual reality ride, drone demonstrations by the U of A Organizational Management graduate program and sensory experience stations. The students did an amazing job."

"I'm overjoyed that the students and faculty had such a successful event," said Kelly Way, associate professor of hospitality innovation and HESC assistant director. "The students transformed the ballroom into a five-star event and provided our guests with some of the most amazing food they've ever consumed. I can't wait to see what the students do for SMASH 2019.  Every year they step up their game and blow me away. I'm very proud of all of them."  

Sponsors for SMASH included 1881 Crescent Hotel, Apply Blossom Brewing Co., Arkansas Hospitality Associatoin, Arkansas Union, avad3, Bates Events, Bayyari Construction, Chartwell's, Dancenhance, Fayetteville Town Center, Inn at Carnall Hall, KFB Events, Lightworks Events, Post Winery, School of Human Environmental Sciences, The Roark Group Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., U of A Organizational Management graduate program and U of A Student Tech Center.

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Robby Edwards, director of communications
Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences


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