New MTSU tourism, hospitality degree to prepare graduates for dynamic careers in booming industry

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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 President Sidney A. McPhee stated...



The multitrillion-dollar 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, Joey Gray, associate professor of leisure, sports and tourism studies, 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.

"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 track that will enable students to graduate with both degrees in five years, enabling graduates to enter the workforce more quickly.

MTSU 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.

Murfreesboro native Brooke Culver, who will graduate in May 2019 with a degree in sports and tourism management, already has a wide variety of internships and other working experiences to show future employers.

Culver has worked at Arrington Vineyards in the wine tourism industry, character performance for Walt Disney World and 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.

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

"How would it be to know that when you 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."

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.

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