The money from Caesars will enable Averett to begin offering the program to its students next fall. It will be one of only a handful such programs in the state, according to officials.
“As our region’s hometown university, we are thrilled to have this opportunity to develop a much-needed program in support of building a future workforce to help meet the hospitality and tourism needs right here in our community,” Averett President Tiffany Franks said during an event held at Cottontail Weddings and Events on Craghead Street on Wednesday afternoon.
Averett hosted the announcement honoring Caesars for its contribution. Guests included leadership from Caesars Virginia, city leaders and regional hospitality and tourism industry professionals, as well as Averett trustees, employees, students, alumni and friends.
Averett’s new concentration and minor in hospitality management and tourism will be housed under the university’s existing undergraduate business management program.
The program will include courses such as introduction to the hospitality and tourism industry; lodging operations; food and beverage management, with electives such as casino, resort and club management; and facility design. Students will end the program with an internship opportunity with local hospitality businesses.
Officials intend for the program to provide a “pipeline” for students hoping to establish a career at Ceasars Virginia or other business in the tourism and hospitality industry.
“The partnership between Averett and Caesars means a pipeline, a pipeline for a prepared workforce in hospitality management and tourism which will result in improved, I repeat, improved employment and talent retention for our region,” said Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones.
Caesars helps its employees interested in attending college and studying hospitality and tourism.
“We provide tuition reimbursement to our team members,” said Chris Albrecht, who will be general manager at Caesars Virginia. “We provide opportunities for student loans for our team members.”
Franks also announced the selection of hospitality industry veteran Thomas Perugini as the program’s inaugural director.
Perugini, during his remarks, said the hospitality and tourism industry is in a state of resurgence and in desperate need of talented workers.
“I’m very confident that Averett is going to be the pipeline for that talent,” Perugini said.
In addition, Franks announced that three Averett graduates have been hired to work for Caesars Virginia — Jennifer Holley, Dean Hairston and Kunal Patel.
Hairston, the former Danville deputy police chief who recently retired, will be director of security. Holley, who has worked as assistant director of finance for the city of Danville, will be director of finance.
Patel will be Caesars Virginia’s compliance manager.
Perugini has 25 years of hospitality industry experience as a leader in food and beverage as well as hotel and resort operations throughout Florida, as well as nearly a decade of teaching hospitality management. He started with Averett last month.
Caesars Entertainment and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are partnering in the $650 million Caesars Virginia casino resort project being built at the former Dan River Inc. site in Schoolfield.
The casino is expected to be complete in late 2024. A temporary casino that will operate until the Caesars Virginia project is finished is expected to open at Schoolfield in mid-2023.
Caesars and Averett bonded early in the discussions around bringing the Caesars Virginia resort to Danville.
Caesars Virginia selected Averett as its educational partner to develop the academic program and create internship and employment pipelines for Averett students.
Franks served as a co-chair of the 2020 “Caesars for Danville” campaign referendum committee, and Averett hosted the signing event in which the Danville Industrial Development Authority, the City of Danville and Caesars signed an agreement outlining the future plans of the casino project.