New Hospitality Degree is Announced

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
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TMCC now offers the Associate of Arts Degree in Business, Hospitality and Tourism Management.

Upbeat progression in the tourism sector is leading to greater demand for hospitality and recreation specialists—so much so, that graduating students seeking careers in this robust industry will continue to find a wide array of opportunities.

The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) expects a strong and steady growth in tourism, according to a January article. Aligning with this strong economic expansion is a new degree premiering in the Fall Semester at Truckee Meadows Community College, the Associate of Arts (AA) Degree in Business, Hospitality and Tourism Management. The degree will be formally announced at a press conference on April 19.

  • When: Thursday, April 19, 10 a.m.
  • Where: The Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce, 449 S. Virginia St., first floor

“With a robust and flourishing hospitality sector, and increased development of international travel to Nevada, hiring for tourism-related jobs will greatly expand,” said TMCC President Karin Hilgersom, Ph.D. “Leaders in the region’s hospitality and tourism industry strongly support the new TMCC degree, with many community stakeholders serving on a well-represented community advisory board.”

Media representatives and the community are invited to attend the press conference, with industry and community leaders speaking at the event:

  • Ben McDonald, Communications Manager, RSCVA
  • Brenda Nebesky, Interim Deputy Director, TravelNevada
  • Ann Silver, CEO of The Chamber of Commerce, Reno-Sparks-Northern Nevada
  • TMCC President Dr. Hilgersom

TMCC Hospitality and Tourism Program Coordinator Vanina Coudriet thinks the degree couldn’t have come along at a better time.

“Hospitality is a huge part of Nevada’s economy, and even with diversification, hospitality will continue to be strong—it’s one of the key industries in this region because of the infrastructure that’s already in place, the proximity to Lake Tahoe, its being a year-round destination, and a close half-day drive to the Bay Area,” she said.

She added that careers in hospitality and tourism will also increase in tandem with manufacturing, as it continues its strong hiring trend, and new firms locate to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center east of Sparks.

“The more we grow, the more hospitality will grow right along with other sectors,” Coudriet said.

In addition, national markets are doing well.

“It’s a good economic climate so people are excited to travel, explore, and spend a little more on recreation and tourism,” she added.

Students Are Already Interested in the Degree

Kazuki Nakae is an international student at TMCC who is working on his associate of arts, and plans to transfer to a four-year university. Nakae’s interest in studying tourism begins in Japan.

His family home is near a private Japanese foreign language school. Before he was born, his parents hosted a foreign exchange student from Alabama: Rick. After Rick returned to the states and graduated, he became a tour guide for a company in Kyoto. He’d visit with the Nakae family now and then when Kazuki was a small child.

Kazuki Nakae went on one of Rick's tours when he was six years old. It was the first time that he was ever inspired to speak English.

“By speaking English, my future would be more broad,” Nakae said. “He’s my hero. I’d also like to be a bridge between our countries like Rick is a bridge.”

So he enrolled in English courses for one year at NIC International College in Japan, before arriving in 2016 to the U.S. for further English language studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. He started taking classes at TMCC in Fall Semester 2016. Along the way, he developed an affinity for the region, and also noticed that many workers from Japan come to work at Panasonic Corporation because it is a Japanese company.

“I love the Reno area, and the natural environment with Lake Tahoe,” he said. “I feel like I’d like to help the Japanese workers at Panasonic with English; as a translator and provide good information for them about recreation in the area.”

Career Perks

A career in hospitality and tourism offers new projects and a variety of people to talk to on a daily basis. In addition, these jobs can fit in well with an active outdoor lifestyle, such as for those who love skiing or hiking.

“It’s very diverse, never the same, you can be creative, experience variety and get to interact with people,” Coudriet said. “You get to be out in the community and at events, such as skiing or golfing—it could be anything—horseback riding, hot air balloons that are part of special events with a city or resort. Or, you might work at an airport or in hotel management.”

The jobs aren’t for someone who prefers a cubicle, but for individuals who like to have new experiences every workweek.

“It takes a fun personality—you should also be open to change,” she added. “At the end of the day, it’s about excellent customer service. You want visitors to enjoy coming back to your event or venue.”

Careers in hospitality are also age-blind.

“All ages can be supervisors—the degree program is a great opportunity to take classes in the evening while continuing to work, and take your general education classes in the daytime, evening, or online,” Coudriet said.

Reno’s Hospitality Industry Supports the New Degree

Briana Smith, Director of Hotel Operations at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa graduated in 2008 with her bachelor’s degree, and 2011 with her master’s degree, both from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She began her career as an intern with The Venetian®/The Palazzo® Las Vegas, a 7,000 room all-suite property on the Las Vegas Strip where she was promoted through several roles and became a front desk manager.

An international opportunity was presented to Smith with the same company, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, to help open Singapore’s first fully integrated mega-resort, Marina Bay Sands. Marina Bay Sands is a multi-billion dollar property with three towers, a casino, mall, convention space, 30 food and beverage outlets, and more than 2,500 hotel rooms and suites. It features a SkyPark on the 57 floor, with an infinity pool the length of three Olympic-size swimming pools. The SkyPark overlooks Singapore.

Smith continued her career in mega-resort operations, and has overseen various departments including front office, group operations, room coordination, bell desk, valet, audit, concierge, reservations, call center, retail, and overall streamlining of operations. Smith joined the team at the Atlantis as Director of Hotel Operations in 2015. A big part in influencing her decision to move was to join her mentor, Cheraz Ecker, General Manager at the Atlantis.

“She has been an incredible mentor, instrumental in my success—her goal is to advance the industry and grow talent,” Smith said.

Smith met Ecker early in her career while she was interning for The Venetian/Palazzo in Las Vegas, and stresses that mentorship is especially important to developing a career in the hospitality industry. Through her relationship with Ecker, Smith has furthered skills and experienced opportunities for advancement.

“Working in the hospitality industry opens opportunities throughout the world,” she said. “What a great career if you love to explore and travel.”

While Smith has enjoyed the travel opportunities that are offered in her field, she said that one can also have a successful career in the Reno-Sparks-Tahoe region.

“I hope this degree encourages learning about the abundance of careers in the hospitality industry that are available in Reno—Reno has so many opportunities in an amazing location,” she said. “Where else can you boat in the summer and snowboard in the winter? I absolutely love it here.”

Smith is on the Hospitality and Tourism Advisory Board and is enthusiastic about the new degree program at TMCC.

Operations is a Large Part of Hospitality and Tourism

Resort operations has a wide scope, including many departments and roles.

“It’s like a mini city; there are the widely-known areas such as the hotel, casino, and food and beverage,” Smith said. “But there are also many other departments that are not often thought of, such as an entire IT team, a finance department, sales, marketing, engineering, security and even a visual design department. There’s so much more to these mini cities than most people realize—places where you could work and advance,” Smith said.

Even within one department at Atlantis, there are multiple roles and opportunities. In engineering for example, there is a team of plumbers, electricians, painters, and carpenters on staff. In addition, there are reservations agents, a bell desk, valet team, receptionists, concierge, housekeepers and an entire spa with skilled personnel. More than 1,000 different job titles exist at Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, Smith added.

“There are so many opportunities in hospitality that most people don’t know about—they could consider all of these for a career, and this new degree is a great way to learn more about the industry,” she said.

Associate Program Perks

For students learning the operations side of the business, in the new TMCC degree program there are chances for numerous active, non-book projects. Students will develop skills in the culinary arts and in human resources management, Coudriet added.

“It’s going to be a hands-on program—how to schedule housekeeping, finding the sweet spot for booking rooms in a hotel, and learning about delegation and routines for staff,” she said. “There will be guest speakers, field trips, and volunteer opportunities at local events. Students will have live interviews, do service evaluations, and learn industry-specific computer applications.”

Further, the needed skill set will include critical thinking and problem-solving exercises, as specialists in the tourism industry need to be prepared for the unexpected.

Careers in hospitality and tourism include, but are not limited to:

  • Airline industry positions
  • Arts or entertainment management
  • Events management
  • Food service management
  • Ground transportation positions
  • Hotel management
  • Hotel operations
  • Outdoor recreation and leadership
  • Resort and ski resort management
  • Sustainable tourism
  • Destination management

Hospitality and Tourism Program students may also seamlessly transfer to bachelor’s programs at Sierra Nevada College (SNC) and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

“Students may go out into the industry after receiving their associate degree or continue on into a great bachelor’s program at SNC or UNLV,” Coudriet said. “UNLV has one of the top hospitality programs in the world. The SNC degree can be completed in this region.”

Smith says that a college degree will help connect students with mentors and long-term growth opportunities.

“More than anything, attaining a degree increased my knowledge of all the opportunities within this industry," she said. "It gave me a better overall understanding of operations. It also gives you a general hospitality vocabulary and a better way to communicate with managers and other departments—such as the terminology associated with budgets, and understanding financials.”

Smith added that students are advised to inquire with employers to see whether any tuition reimbursement programs are offered, similar to the program at the Atlantis that assists employees to further their education in new degree opportunities, such as the Business AA, Hospitality and Tourism Management Emphasis at TMCC.

“Someone with a degree in hospitality and tourism can really stand out throughout the industry when it comes to promotions and career advancement,” Smith said. “This new degree would be a great choice for students who enjoy customer interaction, and something new and exciting each and every day.”

Interesting Facts

“The World Travel and Tourism Council reported that in 2015, the sector generated 10 percent of the world gross domestic product,” Coudriet said.

For more information about the Business AA, Hospitality and Tourism Management Emphasis, please contact Vanina Coudriet.