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"The value of hospitality as a service industry is paramount" Debby Cannon, Director Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality

In our special Hospitality ON issue on hospitality management schools and trainings (No 308-309 / May-June 2021) we interviewed Academic Directors of renowned hotel schools around the world. Here we unveil insights from Debby Cannon, Director, Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality.

What innovations, programmes and projects have been implemented in your school over the last two years?

To replace in-person company visits over the last year during COVID-19, the School has created virtual company visits which have evolved into a series of guest lectures called “The Knowledge Garden”. The visits have been very successful ln the sharing of corporate information and connectlng wlth students for later interviews.

During COVID-19, the School of Hospitality received a $2 million gift for the development of the Cecil B. Day Hospitality Immersion Program which will provide state-of-the-art learning experiences for undergraduate and graduate students including opportunities to visit and meet with industry leaders both domestically and internationally.

The School has developed an impressive list of certifications incorporated into specific hospitality coursework that allow students to show proficiency in digital marketing, hotel analytics and virtual event management. These have been well received by the industry and have added value to the students’ resumes.

What approach(es) has your school chosen to train its students? What are the specificities of your schools?

The focus of the Cecil B. Day School of Hospltality is to build strong hospitality business leaders. Hospitality majors complete a comprehensive business curriculum with specialized courses targeting the needs of the hospitality industry. Located in the heart of an urban area (Atlanta) surrounded by the hospitality industry, the School of Hospitality builds on the advantage of real-world learning with industry speakers, company visits, experiential projects, and live casestudies for students to build and refine agile critical thinking skills in a rapidly changing business environment.

Has the COVID-19 crisis impacted the students interest in the hospitality industry?

Students were concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitallty industry particularly with the uncertainty of recovery - timing, what sectors would rebound most quickly, would career plans drastically change. Since there are clear signs now of a strong recovery, students are more optimistic about job opportunities being available and doors open for promising careers, experiential projects, and live case studies for students to build and refine agile critical thinking skills in a rapidly changing business environment.

What values / skills do you think are necessary for the hospitality industry that should be taught in a hotel school?

The value of hospitality as a service industry is paramount. Business acumen is important and the ability to understand the many components of operating a business - profitability, technology, service delivery processes, risks and liabilities - is vital to the success of future leaders. The traits of effective leaders, however, cannot be minimized particularly in an industry that is people-driven. lnterpersonal and communication skill-building is essential in preparing students for success. Problem-solving and decision-making in an environment that must become more inclusive with the existing rich diversity of our associates, customers and guests will be key to individual and industry success.

What do you think hoteliers need to do to attract & keep young talent?

Hoteliers need to share their success stories of how this industry inspired their passion as well as listening to our future leaders for their thoughts on continual positive changes. Today’s young generations expect different things from their careers and our industry has to listen. Companies that open the communication channels and can show a commitment to supporting life-long learning and professional development in an environment built on inclusion and mutual respect of differences will thrive.

What features/partnerships are you looking for?

We are open to developing partnerships that will involve students in real-world learning preferably with experiential formats - speaker series; course projects; focus groups with industry and students addressing opportunities.

What message would you give to hoteliers?

Our doors are open in the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality at Georgia State University for in-person and/or virtual visits. Join us in meeting hospitality students at one of the most diverse and largest university in the nation. Each visit can be customized to address specific company needs and priorities. We look forward to introducing students with tremendous potential as leaders of tomorrow for our industry.

What message would you give to future generations?

We experienced the importance of the hospitality industry to our nation and to the world during COVID-19. Not only as a major economic driver to most cities and towns but as a stimulus to a more fulfilling life of exploring places and meeting others, our industry is indeed impactful. If you like every day to offer new exciting experiences, explore the world of hospitality. If you get excited with the idea of working as a team to build memories for others, think of careers in this industry. If you are thinking you want to be an entrepreneur, consider being able to have this type of “ownership” in running an existing business with you at the helm. This industry needs your talent, energy, creativity, and intellect! 

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