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New MTSU tourism/hospitality degree to prep grads ...

New MTSU tourism/hospitality degree to prep grads for dynamic careers in booming industry [+VIDEO]

NASHVILLE, Tenn.MTSU is poised to become one of the premier institutions for furnishing personnel to a burgeoning industry that is critical to the Midstate economy and in need of skilled professionals.

The university announced the creation of a Tourism and Hospitality Management degree Thursday, March 21, in the Grandview Terrace area of one of its partners, the Omni Nashville Hotel.

The degree will become available in the fall 2019 semester and is the only such degree program in Middle Tennessee.

MTSU student Will Mitchell, right, greets a colleague inside Embassy Suites Murfreesboro in this promotional photo for the university’s new Tourism and Hospitality Management Bachelor of Science Degree Program, the only college degree track of its kind in Middle Tennessee. Mitchell also works at the hotel. MTSU’s program launches in fall 2019. (MTSU photo by Eric Sutton)

MTSU student Will Mitchell, right, greets a colleague inside Embassy Suites Murfreesboro in this promotional photo for the university’s new Tourism and Hospitality Management Bachelor of Science Degree Program, the only college degree track of its kind in Middle Tennessee. Mitchell also works at the hotel. MTSU’s program launches in fall 2019. (MTSU photo by Eric Sutton)

The multitrillion-dollar tourism and hospitality industry supports 1 in 10 jobs worldwide and is growing by about 5 percent each year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

That organization projects that the tourism and hospitality field will support more than 413 million jobs by 2028.

With industry leaders and university officials looking on, Dr. Joey Gray, an associate professor in MTSU’s Department of Health and Human Performance and coordinator for the Leisure, Travel and Tourism Studies Program, explained that the program has three emphasis areas: travel and tourism, hospitality and hotel, and event planning.

Students can choose one or combine all three.

Dr. Joey Gray, undergraduate program coordinator for the Leisure, Sport and Tourism Studies Program in the Department of Health and Human Performance

Dr. Joey Gray

“It’s an industry that you work in because you love it,” Gray said. “It’s a job that you look forward to going to every day … They know how to keep their employees. They know how to make their employees happy.”

While taking note of the hotel construction underway outside, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee emphasized that the tourism and hospitality field is less about gleaming high-rise buildings and more about taking care of people.

“This program will work in making sure that our students have those people skills, those ‘soft skills’ — interpersonal relationships, communication, empathy — so that they can be the best that they can be in this industry,” McPhee said.

The program includes an advanced bachelor’s to master’s degree track that will enable students to graduate with both degrees in five years, putting graduates into the workforce more quickly.

Tourism and Hospitality Management degree logoMTSU is uniquely well-positioned to offer the degree because of its existing leisure, sports and tourism classes in the Department of Health and Human Performance in the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, supporters said.

Murfreesboro native Brooke Culver, who will graduate this May with a degree in sports and tourism management, already has a wide variety of internships and other work experience to show future employers.

She’s worked at Arrington Vineyards in the wine tourism industry, in character performance for Walt Disney World and in field studies with Hilton Hotels and Resorts.

“I am fully prepared to enter the workforce as a hospitality and tourism professional, and I will always be grateful for the doors that this degree has opened for me,” Culver said.

Supporters gather for a photo at the Omni Nashville Hotel Thursday, March 21, during the announcement of MTSU's new Tourism and Hospitality Management Bachelor of Science Degree Program, the only college degree track of its kind in Middle Tennessee. From left are Eric Opron, managing director of the Omni Nashville Hotel; Brooke Culver of Murfreesboro, an MTSU sports and tourism management major who'll be graduating in May; Dr. Joey Gray, an associate professor in MTSU's Department of Health and Human Performance and coordinator for the Leisure, Travel and Tourism Studies Program; MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee; MTSU alumna Pam Wright, CEO and owner of Nashville's Wright Travel, holder of the Wright Chair of Entrepreneurship in the Jones College of Business, and a member of the MTSU Board of Trustees; MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes; Betty Dandridge Johnson, chief academic officer for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission's Bureau of Academic Affairs and Student Success; Nancy Eisenbrandt, COO and chief workforce development chair for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce; and Dr. Nicky Wu, an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Supporters gather for a photo at the Omni Nashville Hotel Thursday, March 21, during the announcement of MTSU’s new Tourism and Hospitality Management Bachelor of Science Degree Program, the only college degree track of its kind in Middle Tennessee. From left are Eric Opron, managing director of the Omni Nashville Hotel; Brooke Culver of Murfreesboro, an MTSU sports and tourism management major who’ll be graduating in May; Dr. Joey Gray, an associate professor in MTSU’s Department of Health and Human Performance and coordinator for the Leisure, Travel and Tourism Studies Program; MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee; MTSU alumna Pam Wright, CEO and owner of Nashville’s Wright Travel, holder of the Wright Chair of Entrepreneurship in the Jones College of Business, and a member of the MTSU Board of Trustees; MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes; Betty Dandridge Johnson, chief academic officer for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Bureau of Academic Affairs and Student Success; Nancy Eisenbrandt, COO and chief workforce development chair for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce; and Dr. Nicky Wu, an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Omni Hotel General Manager Eric Opron applauded MTSU’s development of a program that he said will serve as a pipeline of talented graduates attractive to his company and others.

“How would it be to know that when I go to school, as soon as I graduate, I have a great job waiting for me?” he said. “Because you do. Trust me, you do.”

Along with the Omni Nashville, partners in supporting the new program include the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessee Recreation and Parks Association, the Rutherford County Hospitality Association, Embassy Suites, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation; the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association and the Rutherford County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“We are committed to putting out the most educated, the most well-prepared graduates that will not only represent our university very well but will also take this industry to the next level,” McPhee said.

For more information about the Tourism and Hospitality Management degree, contact Gray at 615-904-8359 or joey.gray@mtsu.edu.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee makes a point Thursday, March 21, at the Omni Nashville Hotel during the announcement of MTSU's new Tourism and Hospitality Management Bachelor of Science Degree Program, the only college degree track of its kind in Middle Tennessee. The new program will prepare graduates for a wide variety of careers, including travel and tourism services, food and beverage services, entertainment, concerts and festivals, travel transportation and more. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee makes a point Thursday, March 21, at the Omni Nashville Hotel during the announcement of MTSU’s new Tourism and Hospitality Management Bachelor of Science Degree Program, the only college degree track of its kind in Middle Tennessee. The new program will prepare graduates for a wide variety of careers, including travel and tourism services, food and beverage services, entertainment, concerts and festivals, travel transportation and more. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Eric Opron, managing director of the Omni Nashville Hotel, expresses his support for MTSU's new Tourism and Hospitality Management Bachelor of Science Degree Program Thursday, March 21, during the announcement of the program's fall 2019 launch. The new program is the only college degree track of its kind in Middle Tennessee and will prepare graduates for a wide variety of careers, including travel and tourism services, food and beverage services, entertainment, concerts and festivals, travel transportation and more. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Eric Opron, managing director of the Omni Nashville Hotel, expresses his support for MTSU’s new Tourism and Hospitality Management Bachelor of Science Degree Program Thursday, March 21, during the announcement of the program’s fall 2019 launch. The new program is the only college degree track of its kind in Middle Tennessee. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)


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