Excerpts from interview for the York College Magazine with John G. Hughes, Ed.D, CHE, program director.
Q: Why is York College a good location for this major?
A: First of all, the legacy, leadership and pragmatic orientation of York College provides a very fertile environment in which to develop and sustain top-notch programs. Evidence of this abounds in the many successful programs offered by the College. The dedication statement found on the York College website sums it up for me: “We are dedicated to the intellectual, professional and social growth of our students. We help students develop a concrete plan to attain academic growth and career success. We encourage students to try in the ‘real world’ what they learn in the classroom. We prepare students to be professionals in whatever career they pursue.”
While the new program is located within an innovative college, York is situated in the heart of Pennsylvania’s #1 tourist area, in the Mid-Atlantic Region close to Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and New York. The hospitality and tourism sector is a major component of the regional economy. As a result, employment opportunities exist within the region for hospitality graduates and interns. Signaling the significance of the region, the following mega hospitality companies make the region home for their world headquarters: Marriott International, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Choice Hotels International, ARAMARK and Wyndham Worldwide.
In my judgment, York College is a perfect location for new, innovative hospitality program.
Q: How will a major in Hospitality Management prepare students for work in this field?
A: We will prepare students for work in this field by providing classroom learning experiences focused on communications, math, liberal arts, sciences and in the business disciplines necessary for effective practice in the hospitality business sector. Classroom learning will be connected to a continuous internship component, which will bridge classroom learning and foster professional development.
Moreover, our curriculum design will be evaluated annually by our students, faculty, and board of industry advisors to assure relevance and quality standards. We can’t help students learn about the importance of continuous improvement and innovation if we don’t practice what we teach.
Q: What types of careers are available to students who major in Hospitality Management?
A: The hospitality industry is one of the nation’s leading employers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2014, the hospitality and tourism industry in the United States will employ approximately 15.1 million people, and that 2.5 million people will be employed in managerial, marketing and other professional positions within the industry. These numbers are staggering. Management and supervisory positions abound in lodging, restaurants, catering operations, casinos, food and beverage distribution, golf and private clubs, institutional food services, events, cruise lines, airlines, transportation, entertainment venues, convention and tourism agencies and theme park operations.
Q: Historically, how important has it been for students to include international experience as part of their Hospitality Major?
A: The hospitality and tourism industry is of service to customers from around the world. Moreover, North America hospitality and tourism companies seek to expand their brands and operations in locations worldwide. In this vein, York’s Hospitality students will develop their global understanding in the classroom and via their internship work experiences. Additionally, the leadership of York College is considering hospitality and tourism focused travel-abroad learning opportunities to maximize this vital student learning outcome.
Q: What qualities do you feel students need to possess to be successful in this field?
A: Common characteristics of great leaders and managers in the hospitality business include a spirit to serve, global understanding, business knowledge and people skills. So, it only makes sense that we at York College work with our students to develop strong competencies in each of these dimensions in the classroom and in monitored internship experiences.
Q: How do you respond when someone says that if a person wants to work in hospitality management, they don’t need a degree; all they need to do is work various jobs?
A: I rarely hear this, but when I do, I usually smile, as this conclusion suggests a lack of understanding. Hospitality is a business as complex as any, if not more so. The service sector of the United States economy represents approximately 80 percent of the nation’s Gross National Product (GNP), and the hospitality and tourism business sector is a major component of the services sector. Graduates of this major will assume challenging management positions. The benefit of higher education and experience will provide the knowledge and skills necessary to manage and lead in this dynamic and highly competitive field.