As Emmett Steed, '03 Ph.D., was finishing his dissertation at the Harrah Hotel College, his classmate (now assistant professor) Clark Kincaid, '99 MS, '03 Ph.D., was searching hospitality management professorial openings on the Internet and found one at the school where he had played football as an undergraduate. Upon his recommendation, Steed looked into the Southern Utah University (SUU) position and was subsequently hired to launch the Cedar City University's Hotel, Resort, and Hospitality Management (HRHM) program for the fall 2003 semester.
"I was thrilled with the opportunity of starting a new program," says Steed. "I wanted to optimally combine three components: 1) my UNLV doctoral program; 2) my 25 years of industry experience; and 3) my being housed in the School of Business at SUU."
After three years' existence and a rapidly growing student enrollment that showed no signs of slowing down, there became a need for an additional professor. Steed recalled another UNLV cohort, Lisa Assante, '98 MS, and a Ph.D. graduate of Texas Tech University. He thought she would be a great addition, but he did not know where she was. He went ahead and posted the available position and was thrilled when she applied.
Assante, who had worked in the food and beverage industry for numerous years with such recognizable companies as Aramark and Sodexo, was teaching in Hawaii when she saw the job posting. "My husband and I had just adopted a baby who was born prematurely, and we knew we needed to be back on the mainland for her health care," she says. "I applied not knowing Emmett was there but thought it was a great opportunity. I absolutely love teaching and had experienced the best two years of my life while I was a grad student at UNLV. I wanted a job where I could ensure that my students would have that same kind of experience, and once I learned of Emmett's connection, it seemed like the perfect position."
Her addition to the department in 2005 added food and beverage expertise to the SUU program. "I think my years of industry experience really make a difference," says Assante. "I teach so that my students really understand the application of what they learn to the real world. When I was working in the industry, I really missed being in a classroom of eager students. Through the various jobs I've held, I feel that I can use my experiences to their advantage. I love coming to work, and it's such a great environment," she continues.
"It's always great to be in on the development of a program and help grow the major. I spend a lot of time with students getting their feedback and a lot of time with those in the industry making sure I know which competencies our students need to possess."
Two years ago, SUU added a third professor. The program now has approximately 75 students with a declared hospitality major and about 225 students in HRHM classes each semester. Steed has partnered with a marketing professor to conduct research for the Utah Summer Games administrators and is also working with the Utah Office of Tourism to develop a Central/Southern Utah visitor profile. This past year, Steed received tenure and the department was renamed Management, Marketing, and Hospitality. Likewise, Assante was awarded the university's Thunderbird award for 2008 Professor of the Year, and both of these former UNLV students have been recognized as Outstanding Professors of the Year for the Management, Marketing, and Hospitality Department.
Another alumnus, Shane Blum, '98 Ph.D., was the Harrah Hotel College's first doctoral graduate, and he continues to set the bar high as Texas Tech University's chairperson of the Nutrition, Hospitality, and Retailing Department, which houses the Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management Program. "I came straight to Texas Tech from UNLV and have been here for the past 12 years," says Blum. "I decided to go into teaching while I was getting my MBA at San Diego State University. I was working full time at a hotel, which I had done for a number of years, and was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my degree.
"While working on my master's degree, I made presentations in all of my classes, and at work, I was responsible for training new employees at the front desk. I loved working in hotels but was getting a little burned out. I enjoyed presentations and training and decided to combine that with my love for hotels by going on to pursue my Ph.D. The timing was perfect because Dr. Bosselman had just joined the faculty at UNLV, and he had been one of my professors when I was an undergrad at the University of Massachusetts. Anyway, long story short, I spoke to him, got admitted to the program, and moved to Las Vegas in 1995."
In addition to his role as department chairperson, Blum currently teaches hotel operations and human resource management courses but has also taught various courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels over the years.
"There are two things that I like best about being involved in higher education in the hospitality arena. The first is the interaction with undergrads in and out of the classroom. Due to my administrative duties, I can teach only one course per semester, which I regret because I am not able to teach as many students as I had in the past. I used to teach each of the sections of a required course, so I would have contact, at one time or another, with every student in our program; that is no longer the case, and I miss it. The second thing I like is keeping in touch with students after they graduate and going to visit them at their work. I was recently in the Austin area and had the chance to visit with a number of alumni and current interns, and it was great to see their success. It helps me remember why I do what I do."
While many are aware that the hotel college places a strong emphasis on the practicalities of hospitality career preparation, they may not realize that advanced degree programs can prepare students for careers in research and teaching. The dual master of business administration/master of science in hotel administration program is designed for students who aspire to become business leaders in hotel administration and possibly continue on toward Ph.D.s. An executive online program enables an industry professional to pursue a master of hospitality administration (Executive Master of Hospitality Administration) at his or her own pace, and the doctorate in hotel administration is aimed at students who want to teach hospitality management at the university level. UNLV also offers a dual Master's of Science in Management Information Systems and Master's of Science in Hotel Administration (MIS/HOA) degree designed for those who seek career opportunities in the information technology sector of the hospitality industry. Alumni like Steed, Assante, and Blum are just a few of those who have chosen to inspire and instruct the next generation of hospitality executives.
Here is a sampling of alumni and where they are teaching around the world:
- Soyoung Boo, '06 Ph.D., George Washington University
- Natasa Christodoulidou, '06 Ph.D., Cal State Dominguez Hills
- Greg Dunn, '05 Ph.D., University of South Florida
- Bomi Kang, '05 Ph.D., Coastal Carolina University
- Sunny Kim, '06 MS, '09 Ph.D., Texas Tech University
- John B. "Brumby" McLeod, '08 Ph.D., College of Charleston
- Tom Schrier, '09 Ph.D., Iowa State University
- Eunju Suh, '02 MS, '06 Ph.D., Florida International University
- Nicholas Thomas, '02, '06 MHA, UNLV Singapore
- Hyewon Youn, '05 MS, '08 Ph.D., University of North Texas
- Tianshu Zheng, '02, '03 MS, '08 Ph.D., Iowa State University
- Dina Zemke, '03 Ph.D., Johnson & Wales University