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Hospitality & Tourism Management program upgraded to 'area of emphasis'

A curriculum designed to meet the demands of West Virginia's second-largest industry has advanced to the next stage, as the Hospitality & Tourism Management program at West Virginia University's business school has been upgraded to an "area of emphasis."

When the WVU's College of Business and Economics (B&E) dove into the development of a Hospitality & Tourism Management program, it did not come about on a whim. In fact, the program is based upon years of discussion and planning.

As with the maturation of any collegiate program, there are steps to be taken and processes to be followed. Now, the program has taken a jump to the next level with its official designation as an "area of emphasis" by West Virginia University. The program designation came about when B&E developed four core courses in the Department of Management and Industrial Relations. The business school, quite simply, has now set its future sights on making Hospitality & Tourism Management an academic major.

"The Hospitality & Tourism Management program has been upgraded to an area of emphasis, which is a great next step in the overall development of the program," said Dr. Karen France, B&E Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. "We started this program by offering individual courses as we could make them available. Now, we have a quality core of four courses, and we believe we are well on our way to the development of an official major in this area of study."

The four core courses for the program include Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, Hotel Operations, Tourism Management and Restaurant Operations Management. Teaching Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator Frank DeMarco said there is demand for the curriculum, and that West Virginia's tourism and hospitality industry will benefit as a result.

"There has been a solid demand for courses in the program and we really believe this will only strengthen the tourism and hospitality industry in West Virginia, across the country and anywhere our graduates land internationally," DeMarco said. "We have two fantastic learning labs in Taziki's Mediterranean Café at the Mountainlair on campus and the Waterfront Place Hotel to give our students practical experience. Couple that with the academic component and students have a great program from which to learn."

He explained that the hospitality and tourism industry has qualified individuals to fill positions in day-to-day operations, but industry employers must many times look outside West Virginia to fill management positions. This program, he said, would help change that.

"We have received very positive feedback from the West Virginia Division of Tourism and the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association about this program. I think these industry organizations realize that this program can help fill the gap of a lack of qualified individuals for management positions in the hospitality and tourism industry," said DeMarco.

Dr. Jose Sartarelli, Milan Puskar Dean, WVU College of Business and Economics, said that the decision to further develop the program is a reflection of work force demands within the state.

"The hospitality and tourism industry is West Virginia's second-largest industry," Sartarelli said. "If we can help produce outstanding management candidates for this industry and establish a reputation for being able to provide quality management candidates, we have met our commitment as a land grant institution and helped our students get placed in great jobs. This would be outstanding, all the way around."