Ready for American Hospitality (RAH)

RAH Overview

Creating Sustainable Lives for Refugees

The Fritz Knoebel partnership with the Ethiopian Community Development Council’s African Community Center, a refugee resettlement agency, represents one of the most important and powerful educational frameworks to enable effective learning experiences for responsible leadership.

Since 2012 refugees and DU undergraduates from Fritz Knoebel have gone through this immersive service-learning course. Fritz Knoebel students must staff a fine dining event held at DU and their employee selection pool is the Ready for American Hospitality refugee students. It is up to the Fritz Knoebel students to guide their refugee protégés through the application, selection, training, and orientation process. This experience immerses these students in a working relationship which requires the exercising of unique communication skills, patience, creativity, and a cultural awareness from both parties.  

What Is Gained

Refugee Students

  • Job skills
  • Food safety knowledge
  • Complete onboarding experience
  • Paid work experience
  • Increased employment opportunities
  • The DU network
  • Expanded sense of community
  • A close relationship with a university student, who is sometimes their first “American friend”

Fritz Knoebel Students

  • Increased empathy
  • Managerial experience
  • Servant leadership skills
  • Exposure to the realities of leading a diverse workforce
  • Understanding of the stresses of the working poor
  • Increased cultural intelligence
  • Reduced ethnocentrisms

“The RAH program’s success in helping refugees to land jobs and become self-sufficient is remarkable. It ought to serve as a model for hospitality and business schools in other cities.”

– Anne Richard, former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration

Student Testimonials

“We had to hire people, we had to train them, that was something I’ve never personally done. I’ve been hired and I’ve been trained, but I’ve never been on the other end.”
-Jon Willis | BSBA 2016

“There is something so powerful about the experience and about relating with other humans that stays with someone for a long period of time.”
-Abreana Bardossas | BSBA 2016

“Initially when you’re working with somebody whose culture is very different from your own, there are going to be hurdles and it’s going to be a little difficult to get past that. Whether it’s different customs or different norms, being able to learn that, being able to experience that, it’s so worth getting over those hurdles.” 
-Daniela Chavez | BSBA 2016

“Being a mentor in this program taught me the difference between being a manager and being a leader”
-Tanisha Cocetti | BSBA 2013 | Director of Housekeeping, The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa

Collaborative Partner

African Community Center

Refer A Student/All Inquiries

Jessi Kalambayi

Get Involved

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Employ Refugees

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Industry Partner Testimonials

“Tanisha shows that she has the compassion and understanding. That makes her different and that makes her successful in helping on-boarding these individuals to a new culture, to a new country.”
-Marcel Pitton | Managing Director (retired), The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa

“As operators within a very challenging and high volume airport environment, we have leaned heavily on the training and skills of the employees that were connected to us through the RAH program.  These employees have shown a commitment to hospitality and excellence that is exemplary, and their spirit for the industry and their thirst for continued development makes each of these individuals a real joy to work with.  We look forward to our continued collaboration with this incredible and worthwhile program.”
-Dave Willner | Chief Operating Officer, Skyport Hospitality

By The Numbers

Program Established 2012


Refugee Employment Rate Post Graduation


Refugee 90 day job retention rate post graduation


Refugee Attendance Rate


This innovative partnership has received international recognition and has won the following awards:  

  • Bobby G. Bizzell Award for Innovation (Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management/Daniels College of Business), Southwest Business Deans Association, 2023
  • Recognized by the U.S Department of State, 2022
  • C. Thomas Howard Award for Innovative Teaching (Cheri Young), Daniels College of Business, 2016
  • McCool Breakthrough Award (Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management), International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, & Institutional Education (ICHRIE), 2016
  • C. Thomas Howard Innovative Teacher Award, Daniels College of Business, 2016
    Inclusive Excellence Award, Daniels College of Business, 2015
  • John Wiley & Sons Award for Innovative Teaching (Cheri Young), ICHRIE, 2015
  • Best Educational Innovation (Fritz Knobel School of Hospitality Management), ICHRIE, 2014
  • John Wiley & Sons Innovation in Teaching Award, ICHRIE, 2014
  • Community-Engaged Department of the Year, University of Denver, 2014
  • Worldwide Hospitality Award Winner, Best Educational Innovation, 2013
  • Service Learning Faculty of the Year Award, University of Denver, 2013

As Seen On

Ready for American Hospitality has been covered by media outlets including:

  • 9 News
  • Forbes
  • Fox 31
  • Denver7
  • The Denver Post
  • Westword