MTSU to launch new degree program focused on tourism, hospitality management - Southern Business Review

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

MTSU to launch new degree program focused on tourism, hospitality management


NASHVILLE — In demand to the increased popularity of Middle Tennessee as a travel destination, Middle Tennessee State University has developed a new bachelor's degree to meet workforce needs.


MTSU President Sidney McPhee made the announcement Thursday morning at the Omni Hotel along with state and local tourism leaders.


The Tourism and Hospitality Management degree will be offered as a bachelor of science beginning this fall. The major is designed to prepare students for careers in food and beverage services, hotels, entertainment, concerts and festivals, travel transportation and more, university officials said.


It will be the only college degree track of its kind in Middle Tennessee.


Globally, the tourism and hospitality industry employs more than 5 million people in the United States, supporting about 313 million jobs internationally. MTSU has developed partnerships with a number of industry professionals in order to give students a chance to gain first-hand experiential learning. 


"Nashville’s hospitality industry is second only to agriculture in the city and across the entire state," McPhee said. "This rapid expansion does not stop at the Davidson County line.  We’re experiencing a similar building boom in Rutherford County, as is Williamson, and many other counties."




When MTSU approached the Tennessee Higher Education Commission about creating the degree program, the organization required thorough research and analysis to determine if it was needed and would be viable.


Among those lending support to the effort was Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.


“As the industry works to sustain this growth, one of the most significant challenges noted is a skilled workforce to fill the robust job creations," Spyridon wrote to THEC. "Currently, there are hundreds of job vacancies throughout the hospitality industry, each providing strong and creative career options with tremendous growth opportunities."


The program has three emphasis areas — travel and tourism, hospitality and hotel, and event planning. Students can select one concentration or all three, said Joey Gray, an associate professor of leisure, sports and tourism studies at MTSU.


“It’s an industry that you work in because you love it,” Gray said. “It’s a job that you look forward to going to every day … They know how to keep their employees. They know how to make their employees happy.”


Students also have the ability to complete both a bachelor's and master’s degree within five years.


Eric Opron, general manager of Omni Hotel, said the program will serve talented graduates and the industry at the same time, noting numerous job opportunities will be available for students when they graduate.


Reach Mealand Ragland-Hudgins at 615-278-5160 or at mragland@dnj.com.