They say a great teacher never stops learning. This is certainly the case for Dr. Joseph West, dean of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Florida International University (FIU). More than three years ago, West embarked on a groundbreaking project with the Chinese government that would make the top-ranked program become even more comprehensive, and in the process, the seasoned professor found himself learning a whole new set of cultural and business skills.
It's been a real learning experience for both of us, West says. "They're learning Western ways, and we're learning how to deal with Chinese ways. And believe me, it takes great patience, and you have to want it to succeed.
"The Chinese only tell you what they think you need to know at the time, he continues. "As you go through the relationship, every time you meet, you learn something new. And you go, well, why didn't you tell me this last time. And they go, well we didn't really think you needed to know about it the last time. So you are constantly learning little secrets about what's going on that they don't think is a big deal.
In the end, the real-world schooling was worth it for West. His relationship with Chinese officials began in 2003, when FIU signed an agreement with Tianjin Commerce University to run a hospitality management school in China that would mirror the 1,000-student Miami campus. And last fall, FIU officially became the first hospitality program to open a satellite campus in China. The Chinese professors who teach at the Tianjin campus are held to the same standards as Miami faculty, and the Chinese students who enroll are subjected to the same requirements as their Miami counterparts.
FIU is not alone in amping up its hospitality program. As the demand for skilled employees increases, schools are updating their curriculum to meet the advancing needs of the industry. Issues such as revenue management, technology, real estate development and, of course, globalization have not only affected the industry as a whole, but the ways colleges and universities are teaching the next generation of hotel managers and executives.
"Hospitality programs alone cannot support the industry because the industry requires a lot more college graduates than all of the hospitality programs in the world can deliver, West says. "And that's OK. What we should be looking at is delivering those students who are two steps ahead of the normal college graduate in terms of hospitality. Let the English majors, art majors and history majors who graduate and can't figure out what they want to do come into the industry and be the ones who come up normally. I think our schools should be focused on developing its future leaders.
East Meets West
Open any newspaper, business magazine or trade publication, and one thing is obvious: China's tourist market is exploding. From Sin City-esque Macau to Olympic host Beijing, the country is attracting throngs of visitors, and global hotel companies are furiously throwing up properties to house them.
The country's economic growth, policy of reform and wealth of attractions have spurred the visitor invasion. According to the World Tourism Organization, China will surpass the United States as the most popular destination by 2020. China's ministry of tourism reported that the country received 120 million foreign visitors in 2005, an 11 percent increase from 2004, when it attracted 108 million tourists.
FIU threw its hat into the China ring three-and-a-half years ago when it embarked on the Tianjin initiative. (After all, "international is its middle name.) The seeds were planted in 2001, when the school co-sponsored a seminar on managing lodging quality with the China Tourist Hotels Association and the International Hotel & Restaurant Association. Officials from Tianjin, the fourth-largest city in China and Beijing's neighbor, happened to be at the seminar. Two years later, when the city was looking for a partner in a hospitality education, they remembered FIU.
Despite initial hesitation over the distance, West decided to attend the meeting, and within two days, the Chinese invited FIU to be their partner. The agreement signed in March 2004 required the Tianjin municipal government to fund the development of the program and FIU to run it. "The only expenses that we have borne are time and effort and travel, West adds. "It's sweat equity.
The 80-acre campus, which would have cost $120 million to build in Miami, partially opened in August 2006. West says they expect to have close to 900 undergraduate students by August.
While it's 8,000 miles away from FIU Biscayne Bay campus, this is no laissez-faire initiative. The Chinese students who are admitted are FIU students, and the instructors, FIU professors. All of the courses, once students start their hospitality classes, will be in English, and the Chinese faculty will be screened and trained in Miami. Plus, the classrooms will incorporate state-of-the-art technology, and classes will be able to communicate in real time with Miami's distance-learning classrooms.
Helping train Chinese students for the impending tourist boom is only part of FIU's objective. The partnership also signals the beginning of a global education for its American students. "One of the most important aspects is the fact that our Miami students can go over to China and spend a semester or year or two years learning hospitality education in China and getting their Florida International University degree, West explains. While only a few Miami students are there now, the school will send 20 this fall.
And it doesn't end there. West says FIU is currently looking for a partner in Europe so it can expand its global reach. "Our ultimate vision, and our 10-year goal, is to be able to offer students a place to study in Europe, Miami and Asia, he explains. A student would theoretically do their first semester in Miami, and then a semester in China and a semester in Europe and come back and finish their time in Miami and have a total global experience.
As more hotel companies embark on global ventures in countries such as China, students who have an international background could have an advantage in the job market. "I think hospitality students who want to go with the best lodging companies are going to need that, West contends. "Globalization is here, whether we like it or not. If you don't understand globalization, you're at a disadvantage, and we want to provide our students with the best education they can get.
Head of the Class
FIU is not alone in positioning its students to be leaders in the hospitality industry. Across the country, colleges and universities with hospitality programs are structuring their programs to better serve their students as well as the industry.
Pennylvania State University, for example, has begun offering courses on growing fields such as revenue management, operations management and advanced finance. "More and more, we hear from the industry that one of the essential skills they would like to see our students have is an awareness of the financial status of a company, the ability to read financial statements, the ability to react to financial information, says Hubert Van Hoof, Ph.D., director of Penn State's School of Hospitality Management. "We're catering to a particular group of students who are interested in the field or have the talent, Van Hoof adds. "At the same time, the industry has been asking for those specific talents.
Similarly, the University of Delaware's School of Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management added a minor in hospitality information technology and a master's in hospitality information management to arm its students with a skill set that is in high demand by hotel companies.
As the hospitality industry expands, understanding what skill sets it needs is at the forefront of the minds of program heads. To do so, they tap into readily available resources. "Oftentimes, I meet with groups of alumni, either formally or informally, to talk about what they identify as growing needs in the industry, Van Hoof says. "The second source of information are the companies that come here to recruit. Those people tell us what their needs are from an industry perspective, but they also tell us what they see as the strengths of the students we provide them with.
Most deans at hospitality schools agree their curriculum should should be dynamic. "You have to recognize the changing hospitality industry, and the curriculum has to continually evolve to become what is needed now in the hospitality industry, says Stephen LeBruto, Ed.D., associate dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University at Central Florida.
That program offers three undergraduate bachelor of science degrees, including its newest one in events management. Students who opt for the traditional hospitality management track can select nontraditional concentrations, including theme park management, vacation ownership resort management, and golf and club management. LeBruto says the Orlando-based school wants to reflect the hospitality industry in central Florida. "The specialization is an added benefit that our graduates have when they market themselves to the hospitality industry, he says.
To stay connected with the industry, Central Florida has created an advisory board for the theme park management track that consists of representatives from Orlando-area attractions who evaluate the curriculum to ensure that it's relevancy.
FIU also relies on an industry advisory board to review its program. Among its 14 members are representatives from Tishman Hotel Corp., Wyndham Worldwide and Loews Hotels. West also makes it a point to keep an open dialogue with industry leaders. This year, he inaugurated a capstone class for freshmen in leadership on a recommendation from the field.
"One of the things I do as a dean is when I meet with industry chairs I always ask them, what are we doing right, what are we doing wrong, what do we need to emphasize in our education, West says. "Frequently, a lot of industry people are more worried about the nuts and bolts. But the insightful industry leaders, the ones who know what is going on, they are the ones who understand the role of leadership and critical thinking.
Hospitality schools may not be able to keep up with the industry's growing labor demand, but it should be encouraging that programs are attracting more students eager to enter its workforce. Central Florida's program, for example, jumped from 75 students in 2000, when it broke away from the business school, to 2,000 in 2007.
Van Hoof also sees a growing interest in hospitality, especially as the number of on-campus recruiters and the size of incentive packages grow. "In the past, unfortunately, it was often a matter of business students who happen to like hospitality and change majors to hospitality management. We see more and more who come as freshmen, saying from day one that Ãƒ.Ã.¬Ã‹Å"this is what I would like to do. While there is a push for a more focused education to meet all of the changing needs of the hospitality industry, most program heads agree that a broad-based education is still required.
"Regardless of whether you are going to be a revenue manager or a controller, you still have to have a basic understanding of the industry, Van Hoof contends. "You have to have a personal dedication to service that a business school student who comes from a manufacturing perspective might not necessarily have.
"Sometimes in our eagerness to provide the industry with all the skills, he adds, "we should not forget we're in the business of educating and shaping young minds, and we can do that in many different way's not just in teaching them how to read an income statement. n
Thursday, March 08, 2012 by Discount OEM Software
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