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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2020 Milestones and Firsts

The Evolution of Hospitality Business Management Across WSU: A History of Firsts

Story by Sue McMurray • Photos by Carson College of Business

Imagine their joy, if 2,000+ years ago a pregnant couple, after traveling 90 miles by donkey only to be denied a room at an overbooked inn, could look into the future and witness the miracle of modern-day hospitality. The luxury of today’s travel, hotel, and restaurant services may have seemed like the greatest gift to the world, or a close second.

But the evolution of the hospitality industry as we know it today has only been possible because of education, and since its inception in 1932, the WSU School of Hospitality Business Management (SHBM) has been the top school in the Pacific Northwest offering programming that serves and keeps pace with industry trends and growth.

The program became global in 1986 when an academic relationship between SHBM and Cèsar Ritz Colleges Switzerland developed. In 2012, SHBM and Cèsar Ritz Colleges established its first joint degree program offering both a WSU bachelor of arts in hospitality business management and a Cèsar Ritz Colleges bachelor of arts in international business in hotel and tourism management.

Availability of the SHBM program also expanded regionally over time to WSU Vancouver (2013), WSU Everett (2014), WSU Tri-Cities (2015), and WSU Global Campus (2015). The program awards $150,000 in scholarships annually and creates environments where students develop knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences outside a traditional academic setting.

Education and Research Milestones Achieved Through Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living

Through its unique relationships with the hospitality industry and the strength of faculty and students at all locations, the school’s mission is to be the “go to” institution for the study of hospitality business management.

2019 was a year of milestones in this regard. One of the biggest was the naming of the Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living, the first, and to date, the only, senior living program embedded within a hospitality school in an AACSB-accredited college of business.

Unlike other programs that focus heavily on geriatrics, gerontology, or policy, the institute prepares students for community operations and will provide a solid business foundation for workforce development, research, and service.

“The Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living is a transdisciplinary approach to the education, research, and industry associated with aging and will become the cutting-edge, world-renowned hub of all senior living initiatives,” says Nancy Swanger, the institute’s founder and director.

Landmark Professional Certificates and Workshops Meet Student and Industry Needs

During the SHBM’s first 20 years, men trained in hotel operations and women trained in dining services to meet the demand of the era. Today, all SHBM students are able to study the hospitality sectors that interest them most, and 90 percent of SHBM graduates have job placements after graduating, often with multiple offers.

The college’s diverse certificate programs also serve nontraditional students and working professionals. The SHBM American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Apprenticeship Certificate (ACFEFAC), launched in 2019, is the first joint offering between ACFEF and the SHBM and the only one of its kind in the country. Additionally, three new noncredit workshops are planned to launch at WSU Tri-Cities, to provide training related to supply chain management, marketing practices, and sales strategies in the wine industry.

“The workshops focus on critical issues in making wine business decisions and in relating to the wine consumer,” says Joan Giese, a Tri-Cities marketing professor who helped design the series. “Our WSU Tri-Cities researchers are tailoring their expert perspectives specifically for wine industry professionals.”

Study Abroad and Experiential Learning – Dual Hallmarks of Success

Offering students unique experiential learning opportunities through more study abroad and immersion helps ensure and differentiate the quality of SHBM’s undergraduate programs, says Bob Harrington, SHBM director.

SHBM leads some of WSU’s most popular faculty-led study abroad experiences. In 2019, SHBM integrated a new component into the Food and Wine in Italy program, with travel to Lyon, France, and surrounding wine regions to learn about core aspects of wine quality, terroir, culinary tourism, and regional identity.

Frequently, students report studying abroad and immersive learning experiences are life-changing.

“Studying abroad gave me friends, success, future goals, culture exposure, and experiences I couldn’t have anywhere else,” says Natalie Heathman, a hospitality junior. “If I could study abroad 100 more times, I would.”

In fall 2019, 13 hospitality students traveled to Denver for the very first week-long immersion program offered at Stonebridge Companies, courtesy of alumnus Navin Dimond (’85), Stonebridge president and CEO. Students learned about corporate philosophy, revenue management, sales and marketing, hotel operations, and food and beverage programs.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to receive invaluable industry knowledge that will enhance our education and careers immensely,” says Emma Claire Spring. “I can apply this knowledge to my next summer internship, my first post-grad job, and maybe even into the business plan of my very first boutique hotel.”

The school has been one of the top programs and continues to hit milestones in producing quality research insights and student experiences, says Harrington. “With a rapidly changing environment, we will continually look at alternative ways to offer hospitality business education to fit the needs of students and industry.”

From left: WSU associates Dr. Lothar Kreck, Dr. Terry Umbreit, Dr. Manny Farris, and Mary Farris. César Ritz Colleges associates Dr. Wolfgang Petri and Dr. Martin Kisseleff.
Melanie Werdel shares a tribute to her brother, Granger Cobb, at the institute’s naming celebration.
Hospitality legend alumna Georgina Tucker, center, was one of the first women to take WSU hotel management courses.
Culinary certificate students work with local Maialina Pizzeria Napoletana owner George Skandalos to serve a Veterans Day lunch in 2018.
Florence, Italy, is one of the Carson College’s study abroad locations.