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The Collins College of Hospitality Management

Sharpening Skills

Renovation of Demonstration Auditorium Will Give Collins College Students a Crucial Edge in a Competitive Industry

By Diana E. Garcia

The Collins College of Hospitality Management - An upgraded kitchen island will be the centerpiece of a renovated demonstration auditorium.

The restaurant industry contributes an enormous piece to the U.S. economic pie, generating an estimated $709 billion this year. 

But before Cal Poly Pomona hospitality students can enter this vital sector, they have to pass HRT 281 Professional Cooking I, a course that utilizes hands-on cooking, tasting and evaluating to teach students how ingredients and cooking techniques can affect product outcome. 

This is one of many courses, meetings, workshops and events held in the demonstration auditorium at The Collins College of Hospitality Management. The space has not changed much in the last 25 years. The kitchen island at the front of the classroom, the culinary equipment and the audio-visual technology needs to be upgraded. 

“Having equipment that is outdated has made learning more difficult as it slows down the production of food being prepared, increases cleaning time, decreases learning time and affects the quality of what’s being prepared,” Collins College student Lauren Beazley says. 

A $240,000 gift from the Don and Lorraine Freeberg Foundation will renovate the demonstration auditorium and allow students to hone their culinary chops using modern equipment in an industry-standard work environment. 

“The demonstration auditorium has dramatically affected my learning experience, and as a student, I utilize the room on a daily basis,” says Eric Basset, who is a teaching assistant and a senior. “When sitting in the middle and back rows, it is hard to see what is really in the recipes. New cameras above the center cook space would help ensure all students are getting the same experience as the students sitting up front.” 

Renovations to the demonstration auditorium will include an upgraded kitchen island that is outfitted with the latest equipment. Modern audio-visual technology will be installed to maximize student engagement. The benefits for students are evident. Faculty members also believe that the upgrades will enhance the teaching experience. 

“The audio-visual hardware allows for up-close images during demonstrations. The new cameras will give a very clear view of what is being demonstrated from several angles,” lecturer Ernest Briones says. “Having the ability to show what is being lectured on can help bolster the lesson. Students tend to retain the information better and have better success when they are replicating what was discussed and viewed.” 

Phases of the renovation will likely be squeezed in during the winter and summer breaks so that the impact on classes will be limited. The required culinary course is taken by up to 120 students each quarter in the demonstration auditorium. Another 120 students take a general education class on healthy American cuisine in that same space every quarter. 

This is the second donation from the Freeberg Foundation to The Collins College. Last year, a $500,000 gift was made for construction costs, equipment and the furnishing of two flex classrooms in the Marriott Learning Center, which will be completed at the end of the year. 

Connections that were forged decades earlier in another profession helped attract supporters and donors for the projects. 

The Don and Lorraine Freeberg Foundation is administered by the Sierra Land Group, which was founded by Don Freeberg. James Geary, Sierra Land Group CEO, became familiar with The Collins College through Professor Don St. Hilaire. They have known each other for 20 years and serve together on the board of the Hospitality, Financial and Technology Professionals Association. Years ago,
Don Freeberg and Jim Collins, a longtime supporter and namesake of The Collins College, served together on the board of a different organization. 

Because of these ties, The Collins College has moved a step closer to having world-class facilities and giving students a crucial edge as they prepare for their careers. 

“The Collins College has a reputation for being
one of the top hospitality colleges in the country,”
says Basset. “Because of the Freeberg Foundation’s support, Collins students can be trained with the newest equipment and latest trends in the industry, preparing them to make a positive impact on the world and maintain high expectations.”