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June 25, 2015
As a manager and owner of several restaurants, I originally planned on a career in the quick-serve restaurant business. I recognized the importance of hospitality training, but I didn’t have much influence over it.
That all changed over 20 years ago when I met Don Smith, a Washington State University hospitality professor who brought his multi-unit restaurant management class into the TacoTime I was managing.
The students referred to him as “coach,” and his unique way of developing hospitality students intrigued me. He invited me to speak to his class, and through later conversations, convinced me to consider teaching. I decided to switch careers and enter academia so I could be a part of preparing future business leaders who can positively impact one of the world’s largest industries.
I joined the WSU faculty in 2000 and have never looked back.
The WSU School of Hospitality Business Management (SHBM) program resides in the Carson College of Business. If I had to pick one thing that best defines all of our programs, it would be a deep commitment to students and communities.
Since the SHBM opened in 1932, we have focused on adapting curriculum to keep pace with industry trends and growth. During the first 20 years, men were trained in hotel operations and women were trained in dining services to meet the demand of the era. As the nation’s hospitality industry evolved, we expanded our programs beyond management and food service coursework to offer training in hotel development, senior living management, consumer behavior, and international business and hotel/tourism management.
The program became truly global in 1986 when a relationship developed between WSU hospitality professor Lothar Kreck and Cesar Ritz Colleges Switzerland professor Wolfgang Petri. Their combined vision led to an academic partnership that has lasted nearly 30 years, benefiting students and the hospitality industry on an international scale. Today, a joint degree program allows Cesar Ritz Colleges students to earn both a WSU bachelor of arts in hospitality business management and a Cesar Ritz Colleges bachelor of arts in international business.
The Carson College has an international learning requirement that may be satisfied by study abroad. Hospitality students studying at any WSU location have the opportunity to study abroad in a wide choice of destinations, including faculty-led programs focused specifically on hospitality in Italy and Thailand.
For example, students in the Italy Food and Wine Program are immersed in Italian culture for 11 weeks. They train at the Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence, learning front and back operations of an authentic Tuscan kitchen. We also engaged WSU alumni and industry partners through a program in which they not only contribute to a scholarship fund to support students studying abroad, but travel with students to Italy to experience first-hand everything they are learning.
Additionally, we require 1,000 hours of paid industry experience at a hospitality company. Combined with international experience, industry experience helps ensure our students are ready to jump into a hospitality career as soon as they graduate. As a result, we are able to place approximately 90 percent of our graduates in high-profile hospitality companies around the globe.
Expanding WSU’s footprint
Given that tourism is the fourth largest industry in Washington and growing, we recently expanded hospitality programs across the state at urban campuses in Everett, Vancouver and the Tri-Cities.
The decision to launch a hospitality program at WSU North Puget Sound was based on years of study chronicling the needs of Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties, and research that revealed a significant demand for an advanced degree with an emphasis in HBM in Washington.
Snohomish County is a growing tourist destination and attracts business travelers. According to the Washington Tourism Alliance, visitors to Snohomish County spend $930 million annually at more than 300 restaurants, 24 lodging establishments and other nearby businesses, contributing more than $67.3 million in state and local taxes.
It’s easy to see why expanding WSU’s hospitality presence to Everett made good sense.
The expansion provides higher education opportunities to hospitality professionals who want to advance to the next stage of their careers. We offer cost-effective bachelor degree completion for transfer students seeking WSU hospitality business management. In addition to on-campus delivery, courses are offered online, through videostream, and a combination of the two. Hospitality coursework is complemented with core business courses provided through the WSU Global Campus.
The HBM program also offers a specialization in senior living due to the proximity of several major senior living communities in Snohomish County and the greater Puget Sound area. We are able to provide greater access to guest speakers and community leaders in these areas, which aligns with the North Puget Sound location.
The hospitality program accepts 20 students each fall, and I’m pleased to say that we have more applications than openings for fall 2015.
Students at all of our urban campuses have access to courses and special learning opportunities across the state, thanks to live video streaming of classroom instruction and dialogue. While many students will choose the campus-based experience in Pullman or one of our urban campuses, the online undergraduate program offered through WSU’s Global Campus is advantageous for individuals who already started their career in the hospitality industry or need additional certification.
The goal of WSU’s Carson College is to enable best-in-class learning to all HBM students, regardless of their physical location. As the HBM program continues to expand to WSU’s urban campuses, our hope is that each campus will develop its own specialty of excellence within the program.
Dr. Nancy Swanger is the director of the Washington State University School of Hospitality Business Management, in the Carson College of Business.