Angela McDonnell’s wanderlust and keen sense of adventure took her from a dairy farm in Ireland’s countryside to destinations around the globe where she worked in the hospitality industry alongside celebrities like Michelin-star chefs, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay.
Her resume is lined with job appointments in China, Jamaica, Dubai, Macau, Germany, France, Thailand, Estonia, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom, and Maldives where she learned the tourism and hospitality industry upside down and inside out—and then started teaching it to others.
In 2017, Angela brought her international expertise to students at St. Thomas Aquinas College, where she has worked full steam to build, develop, and manage a Hospitality Management Program within the School of Business.
“When I turned 16, my parents said that if I wanted to fund my rock-and-roll lifestyle, I’d have to get a job,” jokes Angela, who is the youngest in a family of nine. “So I went to work at a local hotel.” That was the start of her career in the hospitality industry.
Before she joined STAC’s faculty, Angela was an associate lecturer at the University of Derby in the United Kingdom. Prior to that, she lectured and served as senior curriculum leader at the University College Birmingham for 18 years, the same institution where she earned her master’s in business administration. She was awarded a post-graduate diploma in professional studies in education at Durham University, a post-graduate certificate in education at the University of Wolverhampton, and a bachelor’s degree in hospitality business management at De Monfort University—all in the United Kingdom.
A sabbatical in 2014 brought Angela to the United States. Since then, she has enjoyed exploring different regions of the country. So far, she’s visited Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. Angela says her world travels have given her confidence “to adapt very quickly to different cultures and to be happy” wherever she is.
What’s most rewarding about her role at STAC is the personal approach she can take to shape each student’s learning experience based on their individual career aspirations. She also enjoys helping them land internships that will give them rich, hands-on experience and set them up for job opportunities.
For example, with Angela’s assistance, one student who is an aspiring entrepreneur with plans to launch his own ice cream company just secured an internship with a firm that produces flavors for Ben & Jerry’s.
Another student, Sean Flaherty ’20, completed an internship at a hotel in Ocean City, Maryland this past summer—an experience that helped him land a job at the new Element Hotel in Spring Valley that will be waiting for him when he graduates in December 2020.
“Professor McDonnell has been an amazing mentor and professor,” Sean says. “She’s the reason I decided to come to STAC. Her connection at the Hyatt helped me secure my internship at the Carousel Hotel. I was able to not only get experience in my field but also make great friends and new connections.”
On the home front, Angela and her husband Barney continue to enjoy exploring the states with their daughter Méabh (pronounced May-ve), and a list of destinations awaits, including Alaska and Elvis’ estate in Memphis, Graceland. Longer term, her travel bucket list includes trips to Cuba and a ride on the Trans-Siberian Rail.