Friday, May 31, 2024

UTSA leverages San Antonio’s hospitality industry in new undergraduate program

UTSA leverages San Antonio’s hospitality industry in new undergraduate program

James Coon, general manager of Holiday Inn Club Vacations, chats with a student in the UTSA Hospitality and Events Management (HEM) program at an event.

MAY 31, 2024 — One of UTSA’s newest academic programs is building on San Antonio’s flourishing hospitality and tourism industry. The Hospitality and Events Management (HEM) program, offered through the UTSA University College, is giving students a realistic look at what it’s like to work in the hospitality fields through the program’s robust local partnerships and unique curriculum.

The HEM program is one of roughly a dozen focus areas offered to students pursuing the B.A. or B.S. in Multidisciplinary Studies. It was created in response to student interest and the desire to prepare UTSA graduates to meet the workforce needs of the nation’s fastest growing city. As the most visited city in Texas, San Antonio has a steady demand for hospitality and event management professionals, which HEM program graduates will help fulfill.

What sets the HEM program apart is its emphasis on the hospitality and event fields in San Antonio and South Texas. This gives students an opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich heritage and culture of the area through their coursework and by working directly with hospitality leaders from around the region. The program is equipping students with a highly marketable skillset and gives them a competitive edge when entering the city’s growing hospitality workforce, which employed over 140,000 people and generated a record $19 billion for the local economy in 2022.

“Our students will graduate with knowledge and training that is unique to our city and skills that they can put to use immediately after graduation.”

Coon recently gave a presentation to HEM students about his experiences in resort management.

“We thoughtfully designed this program with the local job market and industry trends in mind,” said Rebecca Schroeder, UTSA professor of instruction and interim associate dean of University College. “Our students will graduate with knowledge and training that is unique to our city and skills that they can put to use immediately after graduation.”

Schroeder has spent the last three years developing the program, along with Karen Daas, multidisciplinary studies program director, and Thomas Green, HEM manager of strategic initiatives.

To advise in the creation and growth of the program, the trio partnered with over a dozen local industry leaders to form an advisory board that includes executives from Visit San Antonio, Marriott International, San Antonio Sports and others. The board enabled UTSA to develop a curriculum that reflects the current hospitality and events business in San Antonio and ensure that course content will be directly applicable to the graduates’ careers.

“Our goal was to form a group of people with a diverse set of expertise — whether that be in hotel management, event planning, catering or public relations — to guide us in building this program,” Green said. “Having board members with local roots and who are active and engaged with our school and our students has really benefitted this program.”

To promote a well-rounded understanding of the industry, HEM students must complete coursework in three different focus areas: management and human resources; communications, logistics and planning; and cultural enrichment. The latter educates students about the many cultures that have influenced San Antonio and surrounding areas.

Students in the HEM program must also participate in at least one internship during their studies, a requirement that was made simpler with help from the program’s advisory board. Each company on the board will offer internship opportunities specifically for HEM students, giving them a chance to grow their professional networks while working alongside some of San Antonio’s leading industry experts.

“When I discovered that UTSA had created the new Hospitality and Events Management program within Multidisciplinary Studies, I immediately changed my major,” said Tania Lopez, a junior in the HEM program. “I decided to pursue this major because it aligns with my lifelong aspirations of becoming a pastry chef, and I’m appreciative of the program’s guidance in the process of searching for a pastry internship here in San Antonio.”

As the HEM program expands, UTSA will offer additional experiential learning opportunities such as micro-internships, which help students build skills and explore career paths through short-term, professional assignments. Students will also have a chance to shadow industry professionals and participate in cooperative education (co-op) programs, which combine classroom instruction with practical, full-time employment.

These local, experience-based learning initiatives provide a real-world supplement to traditional instruction and help prepare career-ready Roadrunners who can smoothly transition into their post-college professions. The internship opportunities also align with the larger university goal of having 75% of undergraduates participate in a classroom-to-career experience by 2028.

The multidisciplinary studies (MDST) program allows students to combine multiple academic areas and design a custom degree plan that is tailored to their specific interests and goals. Other niche programs within the MDST degree include geoinformatics, artificial intelligence, applied data science, cyber intelligence, data science, nursing, strategic leadership and defense, and Spanish and community health.

Explore other programs offered by the UTSA University College.

The University College promotes student-centered learning through academic excellence and dynamic, engaged curriculum, offering students lifelong tools for academic inquiry, advancement and leadership. Its programs also include the Academic Introduction and Strategies program, the Writing Program, the Air Force and Army ROTC programs and the Dual Credit program.

In addition to offering undergraduate degrees in Multidisciplinary Studies, the University College offers an M.S. in Artificial Intelligence, an M.A./M.S. in Multidisciplinary Studies, a Ph.D. in Translational Science and several certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

One of its newest programs, the M.D./M.S. in Artificial Intelligence, recently awarded degrees to the nation’s first known graduates of the program.

Chloe Johnson

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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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