HOUSTON—The University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management has changed its name to the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership.
Since hotel industry icon Conrad Hilton gifted $1.5 million to build the first hospitality school in Texas more than 50 years ago, the hospitality industry has grown exponentially. To keep pace, programs and courses offered at Hilton College also evolved into more than a hotel and restaurant management program.
“The new name not only reflects the role of Hilton College as a global leader in hospitality education but also supports its mission to prepare the industry’s future leaders,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.
Dennis Reynolds, dean and Barron Hilton Distinguished Chair at Hilton College, said the impetus for the name change began years ago when students and faculty began asking for it.
“Ambiguity about our name among employers and recruiters, many of whom are in service businesses outside of hotels or restaurants, also played a factor,” he said. “While perfect in 1969, ‘Hotel and Restaurant Management’ does not resonate today, particularly with parents. Given many of our students are the first in their family to go to college, families have difficulty separating a career in service from servitude.”
With a goal of leveraging data to identify a name that would better bridge industry and academia, a market-research firm conducted an eight-month query process. Funded by an anonymous donor, more than 30 one-on-one qualitative interviews were conducted, followed by a quantitative survey that yielded some 350 responses from alumni, advisory board members, students, faculty, staff, recruiters, and deans and directors from hospitality programs around the world.
In August 2021, Hilton College faculty voted unanimously to support the name change, and the UH System Board of Regents unanimously approved it during its February 24, 2022, meeting.
Doug Brooks, UH System regent and retired CEO, president, and chairman of the board for Brinker International said having the Conrad N. Hilton name has always distinguished the college from other hospitality programs, but now the name is “more relevant, applicable, and defining.”
“Today, multinational hospitality companies are the norm rather than the exception, and Hilton College graduates continue to lead the industry worldwide,” said Brooks, a 1975 alumnus of Hilton College and chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board. “With the addition of ‘Global Hospitality Leadership’ to the Hilton name, this program stays ahead of the curve as it has done since its founding.”
When Hilton College was established in 1969, there were 39 students and three adjunct professors. Today, there are about 1,000 students from 30 countries, 32 full-time faculty, and seven degree programs. The college has graduated nearly 10,000 students who work in hospitality leadership positions around the world.
Hilton College is the only hospitality program in the world where students work and take classes in an internationally branded, full-service hotel. In 2019, the undergraduate curriculum was revamped to consolidate nine areas of emphasis into four tracks—Lodging Management, Foodservice Management, Wine & Beverage Studies, and Project Management & Analytics. This curriculum allows students more flexibility in customizing their academic experience, as well as a range of electives designed to prepare them to better anticipate inevitable changes in the industry.
In addition to name and curriculum changes, Hilton College continues to make its mark on hospitality education. Currently, the Hilton University of Houston—the college’s teaching hotel—is undergoing a $30.4 million expansion and renovation. The project, which includes the addition of a new five-story, 70-room guest tower, is expected to be completed in early 2023. Financing is through a revenue bond issued by the UH System that will be repaid with additional revenue generated by the hotel.
“These and other endeavors allow us to provide the highest level of hospitality education and leading research,” said Reynolds. “Conrad Hilton embodied the spirit of hospitality and, along with our world-class faculty and staff, it is an honor to now carry on his legacy with this fitting new name.”