Dear friends,

2020 brought many unexpected challenges for hospitality businesses, individuals, and higher education. Hopefully, 2021 will be brighter, less turbulent, and allow us to use the experiences of 2020 to facilitate growth and success going forward. My experience this past year reminds me of two quotes:

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” — Mike Tyson

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” — Winston Churchill

For those of us providing higher education hospitality programs, this experience reinforces the need to instill resilience, the ability to address change, and an innovative mindset in our graduates. While these traits have always been part of the culture of the School of Hospitality Business Management (SHBM), the current environment underscores making them more explicit.

The SHBM has always been a leader within WSU, whether under the leadership of Terry Umbreit or Nancy Swanger. I’m happy to report SHBM enrollments across the WSU system are up 21 percent compared to 2019. But, the crisis of this last year made the need to facilitate even greater innovation across the SHBM more apparent.

As a strategic step forward, we hired Dipra Jha, our new assistant director of hospitality at WSU Pullman. He joined the SHBM this fall and is the main point of contact when students, parents, and industry leaders want to learn more about the Pullman campus and SHBM programs. He also has an active role in the SHBM’s social media presence and teaches courses in hospitality business management and international business.

Adding to our momentum is the Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living’s new weekly speaker series “LIVE!” The series makes greater use of our industry partners as a “learning laboratory” for students. Marla Becker, Aljoya Mercer Island executive director, gave a recent presentation that inspired students to create a holiday card campaign for several senior living communities. The impact of our senior living education is unmistakable as you read our alumna Alexandria Briggs’s testimony about providing lifestyle assistant services to seniors at Revel Communities in Spokane.

Our impactful research insights are a valued resource across the Pacific Northwest, as you’ll see in the feature on Byron Marlowe, wine and beverage business management program director and WSU Tri-Cities Don Smith Distinguished Professor. He recently published a guide providing specific recommendations for how wineries statewide can safely return to business during the pandemic.

We have much to celebrate and that includes our annual Hospitality Week, which will be virtual during the first week of March 2021. The Burtenshaw Lecture Series, made possible through a donation by Jerry and Angelina Burtenshaw, is a key element of this week, and we’ll be celebrating its 40th anniversary. You can learn more about the lecture series and other contributions the Burtenshaws have made to the college in a special anniversary feature highlighting Jerry and Angelina. We also celebrate our 2021 Hall of Fame inductees, Douglas Dreher (’87), Joe Fugere (’84), Brian McGinnis (’77), and Julie Purnell (’86). In each issue, we feature a previous SHMB Hall of Fame recipient, so be sure to read about 2020 inductee Jan Hazelton (’83), who has supported hospitality programming and served as the Burtenshaw Distinguished Lecturer last year.

As we continue to create innovation during this time of crisis, the SHBM needs your support. There are many opportunities for involvement, thanks to technology that allows us to create engaging, system-wide approaches to student learning and class delivery. I look forward to working together to provide the highest possible quality hospitality education in the Pacific Northwest.


Bob Harrington, director