HBCUs Gear Up to Produce Hospitality Managers: Administrators Say. Menial Image of Industry is Outdated
by Chris Murray
WASHINGTON, DC -- Whenever she talks to African American students about careers in the hospitality business, Joyce Green, head of the Hospitality Administration department at Atlanta's Morris Brown College, says the discussion usually conjures up images of menial labor.
"I've had students come up to me and say, 'I'm not going to college to learn to clean somebody's room'," Green said. "When young people of today think about hospitality and service, they think about servitude, and that's the reason why many of our folks have stayed away from the field."
But such perceptions are wrong, says Green, who holds a master's degree in hospitality management from Florida International University. The hospitality industry -- management of hotels and motels, the food service industry and travel and tourism -- is growing by leaps and bounds in the United States and around the world. At Morris Brown -- and at other historically Black institutions teaching hotel, restaurant and travel management -- administrators are working to keep up with the growth rate while changing long-held perceptions.
Says Green: "The No. 1 industry in the world is tourism....It's going to be the No. 1 growth industry in this country by the year 2005."
Dr. Charles S. Monagan, director of Howard University's hospitality program, agrees. "We as a people look at hospitality [as providing jobs as] hamburger flipper, maid or whatever. But we don't see what's behind that big, multi-million-dollar corporation. Not only is the manager of a major hotel making $100,000 or more a year but, depending on the size of the operation, the food and beverage director or other services manager makes $100,000."
John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends 2000, a book projecting business trends to the end of the century, has predicted that travel and tourism will be among the top three sources of economic growth in the 21st century.
According to the U.S. Travel Data Center, a Washington, DC-based group tracking industry business trends, travel ranks as the first, second or third largest employer in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Over the past decade, average hourly earnings in the service sector have grown faster than in any other industry except finance, insurance and real estate. During this period, service sector earnings increased 52.5 percent.
African Americans make up 11.4 percent of the people working in the U.S. travel and tourism industry, according to the Travel Data Center, but the statistics on management positions are not so encouraging. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that, out of 1.2 million managers employed in food-service and lodging establishments, only 97,000 are African American.
There are only two African Americans, nationally, who serve as heads of municipal tourism and convention bureaus: Melvin Tennant in Charlotte, NC, and Ron Davis in Oakland, CA, -- and only four African Americans serving as general managers of major hotels.
To increase the number of African American managers in the field, historically Black colleges and universities, such as Morris Brown, are gearing up to train students in all aspects of the hospitality business. Students learn about the industry through a combination of classroom and internship experiences.
Howard's Monagan urged educators to focus on hospitality management as a business function. "Sure, you have to have a personality that allows you to interact with a wide range of people from different backgrounds, but you have to have good business skills as well. Students have to understand accounting, finance, inventory and business management to succeed in hospitality management."
Howard's program, instituted in the early 1980s, enrolls 55-65 students each year. Monagan said that 15-20 companies "come specifically to my program to recruit students for full time work and to recruit students for internships. Frankly, I never have as many students to place as I have places for them."
At Central State University, students "will receive hands-on training through such things as front-office simulation in hotel administration, which will lead to jobs as managers in hotels...front-office operations, reservations, accounting or purchasing," said Gloria Tate, director of Central State's hospitality management program in Wilberforce, OH. "The same goes for...travel and tourism, where they train and get hands-on experience through internships."
Morris Brown College offers one of the oldest HBCU degree programs in hospitality management, producing managers for the field since 1965. Located in Atlanta's downtown convention district, the college puts a major emphasis on teaching its students good customer-relations skills.
Morris Brown students receive instruction from four full-time professors and one part-time instructor. All have master's degrees and at least 10 years experience working in the hospitality industry. The college also has classrooms that resemble a hotel office, food service company and a travel agency.
Before graduation, each Morris Brown student must have 1,000 hours of work experience in his or her area of specialty, along with internships. Students intern at such facilities as the Omni Hotel, the Georgia Dome, the Hyatt Regency and the Marriott.
Atlanta, which represents a large market with some 60,000 hotel rooms, affords students glowing job prospects after graduation. Green said that with a 90-percent placement for its graduates, Morris Brown is finding that there are "more jobs than students to fill those jobs."
Morris Brown now has 65 students majoring in hospitality administration, and Green hopes to raise that number to 100 over the next two years. The number of students has risen over the last four years. In 1994, 17 students received degrees in hospitality management, compared to eight in 1990.
Golf and Tennis
Central State University's hospitality program has just completed its first year with a class of 20 students. Like their counterparts at Morris Brown, all Central State students who aspire to careers in the hospitality industry are required to take basic courses that cover hotel, food service and travel and tourism management and services.
Unlike Morris Brown, where students can get a degree in hospitality management, students at Central State must complete 75 credit hours of regular business administration courses before they are allowed to take classes in the hospitality program. Central State students must complete 30 hours of classroom work in either hotel management, travel and tourism or food services before receiving their degrees in business administration with an emphasis in hospitality management. Students also are advised to take courses in either golf or tennis when they complete their general university athletic requirements.
Tate says the new hospitality classroom at Central State is designed to resemble the workplace.
"We have a kitchen for hands-on here on campus...travel and tourism students receive hands-on instruction at a travel agency and hotel administration students receive hands-on training with a hotel simulation program."
As in Morris Brown's hospitality program, Central State students are required to complete internships and gain work experience in order to graduate.
Strong Background Given
At Florida Memorial College in Miami, business students with at least 2.5 gradepoint averages who are interested in careers in hospitality management can take courses in their senior year at Florida International University (FIU).
"They can transfer for part or all of their senior year and attend classes here," said Lee Dickson, associate dean of FIU's hospitality management program. "The student then transfers those credits back to Florida Memorial and gets the bachelor's degree issued by Florida Memorial."
Dickson said Florida Memorial students taking courses at FIU could gain entry into Florida International's master of science program in hotel and food-service management by taking the prerequisite courses while completing a bachelor's degree.
Florida Memorial students attending classes at FIU can take courses in a variety of areas in the hospitality industry: restaurant management, hospitality law, fundamentals of tourism or human relations.
"Our degree really gives them a strong background in the management kinds of things that they need to have to be hired by a major hotel, restaurant or food-service company, and get on a management track and then progress through the ranks," Dickson said.
Educators at these institutions feel that the training they provide gives their students the ability to do more than just hold down jobs in the industry.
"This field offers students the chance to become owners and operators of their own enterprises," Tate said. "What we're trying to do is say, 'Let's get in there and become knowledgeable as managers so that we can turn around and start purchasing these types of facilities.'"
Tate said students with their degrees and experience obtained through internships usually start out making between $21,000 and $24,000 per year in management-track positions.
"You would probably start off as an assistant manager of a given department in the industry," she says. "You could be an assistant restaurant manager, catering manager, housekeeping supervisor or reservations manager."
The challenge of getting more African American college students to think about careers in hospitality means knocking down the perception that service jobs involve menial labor. Morris Brown's Joyce Green says that helping students realize their self-worth is the key.
Photo (Nicole Sims works a summer job in a catering department)…