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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

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Students hanging out in the HTM lounge. Students hanging out in the HTM lounge.

HTM Celebrates 10 Years

The L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management shares ambitious plans for the future.
By Christianne Penunuri

Nearly 16 years ago, a group of hospitality and tourism leaders in the San Diego region met with then-President Stephen Weber to discuss creating a program at SDSU that would prepare students to work in the growing hospitality and tourism industry in San Diego.

For two years, meetings were held with groups of local industry leaders to gather input to develop curriculum for the new program.

The meetings attracted 50-60 industry professional on a regular basis, all willing to provide insight on what skills and knowledge were necessary for a successful career in hospitality and tourism.

“The tourism folks were hooked," said local hospitality professional and SDSU supporter, Patti Roscoe. they signed up to work on various committees (marketing, fundraising, curriculum, etc.) and started moving the project along."

In 2000, the first hospitality and tourism management courses were offered at SDSU; in 2001 when the program officially became a major, there was a ready-made student body. The first graduating class — in 2003 — consisted of only six graduates.

About the School

The school focuses on preparing students to be career-ready upon graduation.

Before graduating, students are required to complete two internships and at least 1,000 hours of work in the industry.

The program boasts a 99 percent placement rate for its graduates, bolstered in large part by a 67 percent correlation between internship and job placement.

Upon graduation, students are prepared for a wide-range of industry careers, including:

  • hotel operations and management
  • meeting and events operations
  • restaurant operations/management
  • tribal gaming operations/management
  • outdoor resource management
  • recreation systems management
  • sustainable tourism management

Beyond industry involvement and real world experience, the school's rigorous curriculum sets it apart from other programs in the nation. Students take approximately 25 percent of their classes in Business Administration and are expected to take calculus, accounting and statistics before being accepted into the program.

“This school was conceived as a true partnership between industry and academia,” said school director Carl Winston. “That partnership is deeply embedded in every aspect of the school.”

Providing a highly-personalized educational experience for each student, faculty and staff encourage students to travel to professional conferences and attend special events focused on their industry, volunteer in the community, and invest in themselves through involvement in clubs and professional organizations. The school also hosts a number of guest lecturers; in academic year 2011-12, the school brought in 75 industry leaders.

“We attract luminaries — from major company CEOs to local community leaders – and a variety of visitors from around the globe,” said Winston. “Robert Payne regularly reminds me that this community input is a critical piece of the students’ education and the schools’ success.”

In 2010, the school was renamed the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in honor of the man who inspired and provided seed-funding for the program. It is the first school at SDSU to be named after an alumnus, and only the second named school in SDSU’s history.

The Future of HTM

This fall, the school will offer a new master’s program. The program is targeted to mid-level managers with 5 to 15 years of experience aspiring to advance to the next level of leadership as a director, general manager, or CEO within a hospitality, recreation, or tourism organization or agency.

Most of the curriculum in the 13-month program will be online, with an intensive week on campus at both the beginning and end of the schedule, allowing flexibility for students to participate while continuing to work in their current occupations.

The school also recently solidified a hospitality program with China. It provides a one-year work/study opportunity for hundreds of Chinese students. They live in the U.S. for a year with a host family, study at SDSU and then work with an HTM partner company in San Diego and upon return to China.

Those partners include Disney, Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, Fairmont, Four Seasons and MGM Resorts. Later this year, the program will expand into Europe.

With more than 700 alumni in the last ten years, SDSU HTM alums make a significant impact in San Diego and beyond. The school has placed 1,800 students in internships world-wide and enjoys national and international acclaim.

Alumni reside and work in more than half the states in the U.S., and can be found internationally in Australia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Sweden, Taiwan and Vietnam.

“In the next 10 years we will work even harder to provide the community with great graduates, community support and relevant research as a global resource,” Winston said.