PULLMAN, Wash. — Twenty business students in hospitality from Washington State University are getting in shape for the XIX Winter Olympics set for February in Salt Lake City.

But instead of packing up skis, skates and bobsleds for the trip south, these Hotel and Restaurant Administration students will tote along notebooks for a month-long internship adventure centered around the games.

Marriott Vacation Clubs International (the time-share brand of Marriott International) invited the students. They are the only university students interning for Marriott at the Winter Olympics. There will be an academic aspect to the experience as well as hands-on opportunities in many types of operations at MVCI properties in Park City, Utah, that line the downhill and giant slalom ski runs and in the full-service Marriott Hotel in Salt Lake City.

“The Winter Olympics have only been in America three other times since they began, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these young men and women to participate in this prestigious, grand-scale, much-publicized hospitality event with people from all over the world,” says WSU HRA Director W. Terry Umbreit.

“MVCI is excited at this opportunity to work closely on this initiative with WSU,” says Jim Deranek, MVCI manager of college relations, from his Orlando, Fla., office. “WSU has one of the most premier hospitality schools in the U.S. and these students will fill a big role for us at the Winter Olympics as they work and learn side-by-side with our own staff.”

Marriott is the top recruiter for WSU HRA graduates. In 2001, the company hired 29 percent of WSU hospitality graduates in positions around the United States.

HRA students traveling to the Olympics will be enrolled WSU students spring semester 2002, says Andrea Luoma, HRA faculty member in charge of the project.

To facilitate the Utah experience, HRA devised a plan that will keep the students on-time and on-track with their studies even though they will miss four weeks in the middle of the semester in Pullman. Three variations of academic schedules were created for them, and the students took Luoma’s new, eight-week course in the fall on the Olympics and tourism.

The students will start a second, abbreviated course in January consisting of field studies and research projects that will require them to conduct interviews during the winter games in February and write reports on their findings and experiences.

The MVCI interning opportunity was announced in late August. Interested students immediately lined up to revise their spring schedules. Marriott executives came to Pullman in early October to interview interested students. They selected 20 of the 60 applicants.

The interns are Kelly Barrett of Auburn, Ryan Burke of Friday Harbor, Kate Cancro of Burien, Lindsay Carlson of Vancouver, Jennifer DiJulio of Seattle, Marci Dow of Bellingham, Patrick “PJ” Fisher of Moses Lake, Bryan Fritz of Silverdale, Ryan Gilhuly of Gig Harbor, Krista Lowe of Renton, Laura Luehrs of Kennewick, Peter MacDonald of Seattle, Emily Olson of Colton, Regina Piampanichwat of Seattle, Nicole Pilarski of Tacoma, Steve Rinabarger of Kent, Margretta Scammell of Spokane, Megan Weiss of Olympia, Richard “RJ” Wieber of Spokane and Kasey Wilson of Raymond.