The spring 2015 semester is quickly approaching and, as I finalize my destination management course, I am reminded of the importance of connecting my students to the tourism industry in a meaningful way.
My mentor, Dr. Trish Welch, believes “the community is our classroom”. Educators must not only ensure students are equipped with knowledge, skills and abilities to be successful, but ensure students understand the inner workings of their chosen career. One of the best ways to do this is to connect industry best practice with curriculum. This can happen in a variety of ways from field trips and guest speakers to volunteer opportunities and semester-long projects.
In my own classes, students have been exposed to tourism marketing gurus, social media and communications experts, DMO executives, event planners, travel writers, copy editors and many others. Thankfully, I have a network of friends and colleagues who will help out on occasion … some every semester!
As often as possible, I try to provide projects within the course that mimic what happens in the industry, ie a marketing plan. Having an industry partner makes these projects more valuable for students and out partner has access to fresh young minds and the creativity that can come along with them.
Educators have a variety of favorite methods to engage students in the real world, but the connections and information provided therein are what college and university students need in order to fully understand the tourism industry. These students aspire to career goals you and I have worked diligently to achieve and it is in our best interest to provide them with the best foot forward.
Guest speakers and industry projects only mean something if students can make a connection to what they are learning in the classroom, which means curriculum must reflect industry best practices. For an educator, having a network of fellow educators in important, but including industry practitioners in that network is essential. We learn from you and your experience just as our students learn from us and our experience. There are several other ways for educators to connect to the industry; attending industry conferences and participating in faculty internships are among the more common.
Inviting practitioners to be part of a program advisory board helps both sides; you expand your network and business opportunities as well as gain access to potential recruits and, from you, we glean information and opportunities for current students. Degree programs are often updated or changed as a result of suggestions from advisory board members.
While the time commitment can be as little as an hour to speak to a class or as much as a summer to mentor a faculty intern, becoming involved with tourism-related curricular programs is invaluable for students and faculty and beneficial for you and the future of our industry.