June 15, 2015

New program meets Chicago-area students’ needs

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois University Carbondale is bringing a new degree-completion program to Chicago-land. 

Students in the Chicago area seeking a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism administration can now attend classes at University Center of Lake County (UCLC) in Grayslake and earn an SIU degree. The program also includes some online classes. 

Nicole Davis, an SIU faculty member in the Carbondale program and coordinating counselor for the off-campus program, said the degree-completion program fills a growing need for Chicago-area students. 

Currently, students in the Chicago area have limited options when it comes to earning a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism administration. While they have several choices at the associate degree level, the only local options for bachelor’s degrees are at private schools – and they carry a typical private school price tag. Or, Davis said, students can move to Carbondale to complete their degrees – but many can’t afford to relocate. 

UCLC is a consortium of 20 Illinois universities and colleges offering select programs at a combined campus in Grayslake. The hospitality and tourism administration program will be blended, meaning it features online courses and classroom courses at UCLC. 

“UCLC asked us to come in and set up this program,” Davis said. “There’s a real need for it. Students in the Chicago-land area can now move on to a four-year degree in hospitality and tourism administration without having to relocate.” 

The target students are those who have completed an associate of applied science in a tourism-related program. The program also accommodates students who completed non-tourism associate of arts or associate of science degrees as well. Davis said those students typically come with a culinary focus. 

“It was a challenge to build a degree-completion program with that flexibility,” Davis said. “But we felt it was important to do.” 

The program course-work is “cohort-style.” This means that a program of study follows a proscribed semester-by-semester sequence. The first semester of the program is for students to finish up whatever requirements they need to move into the program. Beginning with their second semester, the students join the “cohort” with whom they will take their program of study as a group. 

“The cohort really provides a support network,” Davis said. “It carries through into the online courses because the students already know each other.” 

Flexible course scheduling is a priority for students in the program, Davis said. Many are working and need access to evening courses. For their convenience, evening courses are on one night of the week, rather than spread over two or three nights of the week. The first cohort this fall is the event planning and management professional development sequence, a fully online exception to the blended rule. SIU will add more program sequences to UCLC, and Davis said the College of Agricultural Sciences, home to the hospitality and tourism administration program, is eager to expand its offerings and enrollment opportunities. 

“Our program focuses on the business side of administration,” Davis said. “We want them to know how to manage a restaurant or convention center or other facility, but we want them to know how to make it a business success.” 

This means students learn marketing, labor cost analysis, human resources, accounting, and the regulations pertaining to food service and lodging. 

Students are required to serve an internship in their chosen career field. Davis said SIU has several industry partners, including First Hospitality Group in Chicago, that help place students in positions relevant to their specific interests. 

“The students are responsible for securing their own intern positions,” Davis said. “It’s good practice.” 

Davis currently serves as president of the International Society of Travel and Tourism Educators. Her position helps keep her abreast of some of the new trends in tourism and tourism administration. For example, the cinema can be a good compass by which to gauge future tourism travel.

“New Zealand capitalized on being the site where the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies were filmed,” she said. “The same is true with Northern Ireland and the Game of Thrones, or Scotland with Brave and then Outlander. It’s savvy to market from the movies, and many destinations are doing it. We want to teach our students to know about these trend-markers and how to follow them and get out in front of them.” 

Davis noted that study abroad, international internships and other opportunities available to SIU students at the Carbondale campus are likewise available to students in the SIU programs at UCLC. 

“For most of the Chicago students, they couldn’t be in a better place,” she said. “There are so many opportunities for every facet of hospitality and tourism administration, event planning, food service and lodging. This is a growing industry, and people are finding they can make lucrative and rewarding careers in it.” 

SIU and UCLC invite students interested in learning more about the degree completion program in hospitality and tourism administration to attend an open house at UCLC from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 9. Students may also contact Nicole L. Davis for more information. Email her at ndavis@siu.edu or call her at 618/453-7516.