September 16, 2010

Graduate program in hospitality, tourism available

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Those eyeing high-level management positions in the hospitality and tourism industries can begin their moves up the ladder with a new graduate program to be offered at Southern Illinois University Carbondale beginning fall semester of 2011.

Housed in the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition, the two-year concentration will consist of 36 hours of required and specialty courses and either a thesis or a project based on the student’s career interests. Most students will be able to complete the program in roughly two years.

Hospitality and tourism faculty members began looking into developing such a program several years ago at the suggestion of professionals in the field who served on the college advisory board. But it was student demand that got things moving.

“In our college, each faculty member does advising, and every spring, all of us in the program would have six or eight students asking about grad school,” said Instructor Nicole L. Davis. “We hated to send students away when they wanted to stay here.”

It took more than a year to develop new coursework and a similar amount of time to complete the paperwork new programs require.

“There are a lot of steps to University approval,” Davis said.

While the degree itself is a concentration within the department’s existing master’s degree in food and nutrition, all but the research methods and statistics courses are new, Davis stressed.

“The existing degree focuses on dietetics, human nutrition and nutritional sciences,” she said.

“In developing our curriculum, we branched out from what we offer in our undergraduate program (click here for more about the undergraduate program), and we also talked to our industry friends about what needed to be covered.

“One thing that came out of those conversations was that the financial management component needed to be stressed, so we added a required course on managerial accounting. They also suggested a marketing focus -- and not just the basics. They wanted to see serious marketing strategy taught and the integration of marketing and operations -- everything that attracts and keeps customers.”

The program will accept new students only in the fall semester of each academic year.

“The benefit of this kind of ‘cohort’ system is that they’re together as a group the entire time they’re in school so they build a support system,” Davis said.

Those admitted must have undergraduate degrees, complete a graduate school exam such as the GRE or GMAT and pass a comprehensive hospitality and tourism test as well. Those who fail the latter exam may be provisionally admitted but will have to take and pass three foundation courses before they can begin their degree coursework.

“We have a specific ‘language’ that those in the industry speak, so our students need some of that basic background to do well in our program,” Davis said. “Someone who has worked in the industry and is coming back for a graduate degree would have no problem passing the test.”

The new program also will benefit those interested in teaching at the community college level or, in larger, metropolitan areas, in high schools.

“In both cases, this is the degree they’d need,” Davis said.

For more information about the program, contact Davis at or 618/453-7516. Other faculty members who can answer questions are Anthony Agbeh (, 618/453-5100), T.C. Girard (, 618/453-7515) and Sylvia Smith (, 618/536-7567).