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Hot Topics in Hospitality Curriculum

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As we all know, the hospitality industry is dynamic, exciting and full of opportunities. To succeed in the industry, one has to be willing to adapt and balance a myriad of demands to keep up with customer and investors’ desires. Similarly, hospitality programs in colleges and universities across the country must also adapt and balance industry demands in order to adequately prepare graduates for the ebbs and flows of the marketplace. Some of the trends we are seeing on our campus include:

Emphasis on business skills. Success in the hospitality industry requires a strong set of business skills. In the hospitality curriculum, this translates into honing our students’ human resource, finance, marketing, strategy, and leadership skills. It is not only enough to teach these skills, educators are feeling more pressure from accrediting agencies and governing bodies to assess students’ mastery of learning objectives. This has resulted in an increased focus on certifications offered through organizations such as CVENT, Smith Travel Research, and the American Hotel and Lodging Association. As I speak with alumni, it appears as though the certification trend is carrying over into the professional community as we are experiencing increased interest CMP, CHA, CHIA and graduate certifications.

Experiential and team-based learning. The way we teach students continues to evolve. While the traditional lecture courses still exist, we are seeing a shift away from the traditional "sage on the stage" approach to teaching. Throughout the curriculum, it is important to incorporate experiential learning opportunities. Hands-on learning is essential to students’ mastery of material. To support the experiential learning process, programs across the country have incorporated student-operated restaurants into the curriculum. More recently, a growing number of schools are partnering with lodging entities to operate hotel facilities on campus.

To complement the experiential learning process, we are placing greater emphasis on team-based learning. The focus on team-based learning to some extent is in response to the demands of hospitality recruiters who repeatedly stress the importance of effectively working on a team. Research shows that peer-to-peer interaction is one of the most influential factors in student learning. Typically, team-based learning involves completing a team project, paper, case or event. In team-based learning, students have the chance to learn and share the content together. Additionally, team-based learning allows students the opportunity to learn how to navigate the intricacies of team dynamics.

Focus on graduation and job placement rates. In business, revenue growth does not necessarily translate into financial success as it is only one piece of the puzzle. In hospitality education, we face a similar situation. Increases in student enrollment, do not automatically translate into student success. The current environment requires that we not only increase our student enrollment, but do so while also increasing the graduation and job placement rates of our student. This means offering a relevant, industry-driven curriculum, streamlining students’ progression through the educational process, and working with two-year institutions to ensure a seamless transfer of credits into four-year institutions. Most importantly, it means educators must be in constant communication with industry professionals to ensure we are providing students with the knowledge, skills and abilities to succeed.

How can KCMPI help? While each of the trends noted are individually important, their true power is when they work together. This is where you can help as industry professionals. The industry knowledge you provide to academia is invaluable as it helps us gage that we are staying current with the demands of the market. Additionally, the internship opportunities you provide to our students are a critical component of the experiential learning process and allow students to apply the business skills learned in class to a real-world setting. The bottom line is when academia and industry combine hospitality education thrives.

Dr. Stephanie Hein is the Interim Department Head of the Hospitality & Restaurant Administration in Missouri State University. She can be reached at 417-836-5159 or

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