The SOMM Journal

May 2014

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30 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2014 { industry legends } WORLD LEADER IN FRENCH WINE EDUCATION Specialize in French wine under the expert tutelage of Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine and renowned wine writers! The French Wine Society offers: - Industry-endorsed Study & Certification Programs - Immersion Study Trips to the Wine Regions of France - Continuing Education for Society Members Learn more at or email USA Canada Hong Kong China Singapore Australia United Kingdom France Learn online or through our approved program providers in: WHEN DR. JERRY VALLEN ARRIVED IN Las Vegas 47 years ago, the town that would become Sin City was little more than a des- ert oasis with some gaming-driven resorts designed as a getaway for the celebrity jet set. "We came in to town, and the freeways weren't here. The city was all desert," recalls Vallen. "The growth story of Las Vegas is a testament to the hospitality industry," he con- tinues. "It's a huge part of the city's history, and it's what has made it so special." And while the industry has played an inte- gral role in growing Vegas from a tiny town of swimming pools and poker tables to a multi-billion dollar glittering machine catering to travelers from all over the world, growing right alongside The Strip has been the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV, now one of the top hospitality educa- tion programs in the world. As the Founding Dean of the program in 1967, Vallen came to Vegas with the goal of creating a space for students to tap into the resources around them: "The thing that made this program special from the beginning was its location," comments Vallen. "Many hotel programs are somewhat isolated, in off-the- path places, and what made our program so successful was our ability to use our location to work with the support of the hotels and resorts in Las Vegas." "In the early years of the school, we were primarily a transfer program for junior college students, and most would come in with quite a bit of experience working in hospitality. Today, we have hundreds of students, many of whom come from all over the world because they know they can't get an education like this anywhere else." It doesn't take much imagination to under- stand why Vegas is the perfect backdrop for a budding chef, somm, spirit master or gaming guru: With the world's best chefs flocking to open signature restaurants on The Strip, UNLV students have the opportunity to learn from some of the best in their own backyard. Says Ziyan Xu, a junior who came to UNLV by way China, "It's the best school in the whole wide world and is so unique because it is able to partner with the resorts in the city to give us the opportunity to work with the best." From internship programs that put students on the floor of Vegas's top spots, to assigning students mentors in their chosen fields to work with, the UNLV Harrah College of Hotel Administration gives students an undeniable leg-up post-graduation too: "It's not only a good opportunity to learn," comments Xu, "it's also an incredibly valuable networking platform for after we graduate." Nearly half a century after founding the pro- gram (and several years after stepping down), Vallen is still making an impact on students, one at a time. After chatting with Vallen, Xu gushes, "Dr. Vallen has been so incredible to work with, and has explained so much about the industry. His insight is really interesting." Dr. Vallen was kind enough to share some of his insight with The SOMM Journal, even for those of us who didn't have the advantage of attending the Harrah College of Hotel Administration: "You have to come into the industry with a realization that its very demand- ing in time and resources—you're not at home when you're serving dinner to someone else." For those of us who have already learned that hard truth, Vallen's got one more piece of advice. "Get yourself a mentor," he says. "Get someone who is higher up in the organization, swallow your pride and allow them to give you guidance. It's never too late to learn!" Larry Ruvo, Senior Managing Director, Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, joins UNLV William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration students Ziyan Xu and John Nguyen for a meet and greet with Dr. Jerry Vallen, founding dean of the school's program. A Las Vegas Legend HOW DR. JERRY VALLEN PUT UNLV ON THE HOSPITALITY MAP by Rachel Burkons / photo by Mona Shield Payne Somm Journal June/July.indd 30 5/9/14 12:08 PM

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