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Alum Rob Heyman Turns to Mercer for ‘Hospitable’ Career

11/21/12


For Mercer alum Rob Heyman ’12 (A.A.S. HRIM), his journey to a career in hospitality began later in life, after almost 20 years in the field of journalism.  But when he decided it was time to make that change, he was happy to find Mercer was there to provide him with the educational background he needed.

Born in Highland Park, N.J., Heyman spent most of his youth in the Midwest, specifically Fort Smith, AR, where his parents moved when he was a toddler to open a New England style deli and restaurant.

A highly focused middle school student, he already knew at 14 years old that he was interested in journalism.  One of his teachers directed him to KHBS, a local television station that was looking for an intern.  “I was really gung-ho about getting into TV news,” he said.

While Heyman began his internship by running errands for the staff, it didn’t take long for the station to see how serious he was about their work.  They began giving him important tasks, such as editing video and operating the teleprompter, which required more hands-on skill than it does today.  “Back in the ‘80s the equipment was very heavy and difficult to maneuver,” he said.

Heyman stayed at the internship until he graduated high school in 1990.  He then enrolled at the University of Arkansas, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism in 1994.

His first job after college was at KFSM-TV, a CBS affiliate station.

Mercer alum Rob Heyman ’12 (A.A.S. HRIM)

Starting out as a script writer, he was quickly promoted to executive news producer, supervising four separate newscasts for the station, including a weekend morning show.

In 1996, Heyman’s family moved to Hamilton, N.J., and he took a job as a reporter for Packet Publications, and eventually became the managing editor of The Messenger-Press, one of the group’s newspapers that covers Allentown, Robbinsville and Upper Freehold.

By 2006 Heyman began to expand in new directions by taking a job at The McNeill Group as the managing editor of several trade publications, which included hotels.   He started writing for one of the publications and took a serious interest in the field.  “I started to fall in love with the hotel industry,” he said, recalling some of the large scale entertaining events held by Gaylord Hotels that inspired him to want to pursue hospitality as a career.

Two years later, he made the ultimate decision to leave journalism and go back to school to study for a hospitality degree.
“I needed a new challenge in life,” said Heyman, noting that with all the changes that were happening in the newspaper industry it felt like an especially good time to make the transition. 

While he was accepted to Penn State University, ultimately Heyman decided Mercer was a better fit because of its convenient location and the reputation of MCCC’s program.

“I knew Mercer had a great program for hospitality,” said Heyman, adding that the diversity in the age of students at MCCC also drew him to enroll there.

To his delight, Mercer proved to be welcoming and intellectually stimulating.  “You really got a feeling that your professors wanted you to succeed,” he said.

Among his favorite classes were those focusing on hospitality law and hospitality marketing, taught by Chef Chris DePagnier.  He also enjoyed his culinary classes taught by Chefs Frank Benowitz and Doug Fee.  “I don’t consider myself a great cook, but those classes teach you about teamwork, which is very important in my field,” said Heyman.

He also credited his public speaking instructor, Tracey McCarthy, for making him feel more comfortable speaking in front of strangers.  “I was terrified to take that class, but she had a great way of making it exciting and fun.  She had a big influence on me,” he said.

The same year Heyman enrolled in Mercer, he took a job as a guest services agent at the Residence Inn by Marriott at the Carnegie Center in Princeton.  “I was able to put what I was learning in the classroom directly into my job, which was great,” he said.

Heyman’s dedication got noticed at work.  Before long, he was promoted to front desk supervisor of the hotel.  Soon after earning his HRIM degree at Mercer this past May, Heyman was promoted to assistant general manager at the Residence Inn in Neptune. 

Heyman notes that if he had gone into the field because he was looking for a challenge, his timing was perfect.  Just four days after he started his new job, Hurricane Sandy hit.  “I had to be really on my game,” he said.  “It was incredible exposure to the industry in a pretty intense way.”

Heyman said that because the hotel is so close to Belmar Beach, they received a lot of guests who were displaced from the storm.  “It’s been a challenge, but it’s also been very exciting,” he said.

Now that he’s officially made the transition into a hospitality career, Heyman said he feels he’s made the right decision.  “I’m really enjoying making my mark in a new industry.  Hospitality is very dynamic and very social.”

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