Hospitality Program Offers Real-World Experiences


Marking its second anniversary on the Fort Hays State University Campus, the bachelor of business administration in tourism and hospitality management program is initiating relationships across the community, nation and world.

The four-year degree program provides a foundation in traditional business curriculum plus specific courses related to the tourism and hospitality field. In addition, majors are required to participate in an internship.

Four certificate programs are also available and a new MBA concentration is being developed, giving students a wide range of opportunities to explore the field.

A key element setting the FHSU program apart from many other tourism programs throughout the nation is its focus on core business classes. Students in the program are required to take accounting, management, marketing and business communications classes.

“Management structures have become so complex, they need people with that business mindset. That’s why many employers require you to have a least a bachelor’s degree... some, a master’s,” said Stacey Smith, program director and faculty member.

FHSU is expanding the program to partner with community colleges and signed a 2-plus-2 agreement with Garden City Community College the last week of July, whereby students can transition from the community college to get a full four-year degree at FHSU.

In addition to domestic agreements, international partnerships also are being considered and include educational organizations in Switzerland, China and India.

Smith, who serves on the board of the Downtown Hays Development Corp. and the Convention and Visitors Bureau advisory board, said she hopes future opportunities for her department include implementing professional development and workshops within the Hays community, adding that the I-70 Association has been an asset in networking and providing scholarships for her students.

Smith said businesses needing help with research projects, event planning, customer surveys or marketing plans can contact her for assistance.

“I’ve got students that welcome those real world applications.” she said. “It gives them experience and makes them ambassadors of the program as well.

“We’d love to work with the community any way we can. Not only are we trying to recruit students, but if we can, help out the industry as well.”

Students are not limited to choosing a four year degree in tourism and hospitality management, and with four certificate programs available and a new MBA program being developed, a wide range of opportunities exist.

The rapid public interest in the program has been somewhat of a surprise to Smith, who said she receives a steady stream of e-mails inquiring about classes. There has been “tremendous excitement” and calls from a variety of people, she said.

“I was very excited, because it took off pretty quickly.”

Although the program had its first lone graduate last May, Smith said she typically has between 30 and 50 students in her classes.

A Hays native,  Smith said she “honestly didn’t ever think I’d come back,” but said she has found the experience very rewarding.

She received her undergraduate degree from FHSU, a masters in hotel, restaurant and travel administration from the University of Massachusetts, and a doctorate in hospitality tourism management from Purdue. Smith also has had hands-on experience in the tourism industry with the Hyatt Regency Crown Center in Kansas City.

“I loved the industry and got some experience in event planning,” she said. “But I needed to make a choice. I loved education, too.”

As the only faculty member and director of the program she has faced some challenges, administering the program, developing courses and teaching two on-campus and two virtual classes each semester.

“It’s been very important from the beginning to make sure anything we develop for on-campus was developed for online students,” she said. “Not only are we able to service our campus, but also a wider audience.”

Teaching through the online community has been an interesting experience Smith said, and she has enjoyed getting a variety of perspectives from students across a wide geographic area.

Career opportunities for tourism and hospitality graduates cover a broad range of areas including: event planning, airlines, consulting, marketing research, cruise ships, travel companies, sports complexes, real estate development, state tourism offices and convention and visitors bureaus.

“We show them through the classes all the other opportunities working behind the scenes on the business aspect,” she said. “A lot of people think when we say hospitality and tourism its just hotels and restaurants, but there’s so much more.”


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