Visit Mobile honors Univ. of South Alabama hospitality and tourism management department
Visit Mobile, the city’s official point of contact for leisure travelers, convention and meeting planners, bus tour operators and travel agents, has named the department of hospitality and tourism management at the University of South Alabama as recipient of its 2019 Hospitality Partner of the Year award.
Visit Mobile recognized the department, which prepares students for careers in a variety of businesses, including the hotel industry as well as nonprofits and government agencies that promote tourism and travel, for its strategic workforce recruitment development and sustainability plan for the area’s hospitality and tourism industry.
Dr. Robert Thompson, department chair, and Dr. Evelyn Green, assistant professor of hospitality and tourism management, said the award is affirmation that the department’s business-education partnership model approach is successful in meeting the needs of the industry. Outside the classroom, students regularly interact with local businesses through volunteerism, internships, mentoring, guest lectures and industry networking. Gaining on-the-job experience has helped the department’s graduates achieve a 92 percent industry job placement rate.
“As much as this award recognizes our faculty and staff, the recognition also belongs to all our industry partners,” Green said. “It is this symbiotic relationship that allows the program to strengthen instruction and enrich the education process for the students.”
Thompson noted that for years the area suffered from a workforce shortage, particularly during high visitor periods. However, since USA started the department several years ago, talent recruitment has addressed the gaps in workplace training and development needs with the establishment of the Hospitality & Tourism Workforce Innovation Alliance. The unit of the University’s Office of Research & Economic Development, supported by USA’s College of Education and Professional Studies, is a catalyst for public-private collaboration to ensure workforce growth and sustainability for the hospitality and tourism industry with special emphasis on the Gulf Coast region.
The alliance “creates ‘check us out’ opportunities for high school students through summer work programs, such as Y.E.S. to Hospitality, offered by the city of Mobile and USA for Baldwin County hospitality employers,” Thompson said. “These programs also serve as recruitment opportunities for hospitality and tourism management where students are groomed for future leadership and managerial roles.”
Thompson added, “Once placed in the workplace, USA continues to serve our graduates and help our employers invest in their human capital through customized professional development training offered through Serving Southern Hospitality certification workshops.”
(Courtesy of the University of South Alabama)