Which Comes First, the Industry or Education?

As the new school year begins for many colleges and universities, short- and long-term program planning is on the minds of many leaders in higher education. The industry seeks a highly qualified workforce, which means hospitality programs must constantly evolve to meet industry demands while balancing the mission of their respective institutions. Developing a solid curriculum addresses all of these needs.

Curriculum provides strategy—a model to achieve a program’s mission and goals. Without it, students of all ages and backgrounds would take courses for pure interest but could not show completion and achievement in a particular area. For colleges and universities, curriculum development is intensely reviewed, examined, and updated frequently to ensure their programs are achieving desired outcomes. This is equally important for employers who recruit students from these programs. Within hospitality programs, the curriculum ensures potential employers that students should have gained knowledge, skills, and abilities for advancement in their organizations. Students are curious about the classes they would take and use the curriculum to decide whether they will invest in that program. This can be tricky for deans and directors who rely on the industry to provide input in their areas of specialty, while also meeting the demand of the students.

Dr. Elizabeth H. Barber, associate dean of the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at Temple University, understands this first hand. Barber recognizes that as the industry changes, education must change in order to stay relevant. The curriculum has to be designed from an operations perspective but students also need to think strategically, therefore Temple’s curriculum will focus on Excel and technology. “In order to stay ahead of industry and align the talents of faculty, research produced by faculty has to align with the changes in industry, making faculty hiring and resource generation important for their curriculum model,” Barber states. “In addition, the research produced should fit top quality journals and have research conducted in quality trade journals as well.” A balanced faculty of research and teaching and use of exhaustive resources are also required to make the curriculum jump off the page and actually be a living, breathing model.


Johnson & Wales University (JWU) prides itself on innovative curriculum, with an upside-down approach to student development. JWU’s curriculum exposes students to their majors from the first semester and integrates industry experiences from each student’s beginning through courses, tours, industry problem projects, etc.—so much so that its new motto is “Experience Your Future Now.” Listening to the industry is important for JWU’s programs. For example, the university’s industry partners wanted more international experience from students, so JWU has implemented an international trip in the third year for its hotel management majors with one required class in sustainable hotels. “While management theories have been proven through time, the focus on incorporating technology and improving students’ soft skills is the next focus,” says Pamela Allison, hospitality college chair for the JWU Charlotte campus.

Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration requires an international experience within its curriculum, along with two, 400-hour work experiences, making a unique benefit for students to have both international competencies and tangible work experience that industry partners are seeking in building their workforce.

This focus on industry is essential to hospitality programs and their curriculum. Kelly Hart, director of employer partnerships at Temple University, has worked 20 years in a variety of recruitment and development roles, seven of those as a college recruiter with food service company, Aramark. She notes that, “curriculum is a factor, along with work experience” for building a partnership with hospitality programs. The number of students hired was important for Aramark, but the retention of those hires was most important. In her current role, Hart is seeing a shift in recruiting where companies are willing to over-hire with the understanding that there will be turnover.

Faculties should not only create and approve courses that are interesting to students, but they also must fit the program model, be delivered in a hybrid manner, and be determined beneficial by the industry. This seems like an ever-changing cycle for continuous improvement, which it is. The industry is tasked with becoming more involved in communicating their needs tangibly, beyond just having a pool of interns and workers. Heads of the industry must assist programs in shaping their curriculum to teach students how to be strategic thinkers and future leaders.

About the Author
Erinn D. Tucker, PhD, MBA, MS is an Assistant Professor in the School of Tourism and Hospitality Administration at Temple University. Her teaching and research is in the areas of event management, sport management and student engagement. Follow @erinntucker or contact by email at erinn.tucker@temple.edu


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