Hospitality and Tourism Students Create Vision Boards

Dream Big
Rebecca A. Eckland

Kelley Wong, who is the Program Coordinator for the Career Hub, is teaching her second semester of TCA 201—a class focused on Hospitality and Career Development. The class, she says, teaches students professional career development, specifically focusing on business writing, crafting a resume and cover letter, developing networking and interviewing skills, and ends with an examination of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Throughout the semester, the class also hosts guest speakers who work in the industry and who share their experiences with students. “A lot of professionals are willing to come in and talk about what they do,” said Wong. “They are very generous with their time and the information they share. It’s always really fascinating to hear their stories and perspectives, and it’s always unique to their career fields. The students don’t have to ‘Google it’  if it’s a career they are interested in.  Instead, they get first-hand information.” 

Even though the class has shifted to remote learning, Wong still continues to bring in guest speakers via the BlueJeans conferencing service to offer students insights into an industry that is facing particular hardship in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.  “I guess one positive thing about this situation is that students are experiencing a very unique time… they are hearing first-hand from business owners how their marketing techniques are changing as everything about the world changes as well.” 

Creating Vision Boards

The week before spring break, students in Wong’s class listened to guest speaker Danell Wilson-Perlman, a local entrepreneur and owner of Reno Tahoe Limousine. In addition to describing her experience as running a local business in the hospitality and tourism industry, Wilson-Perlman gave Wong’s students some unconventional advice: every year, they should create vision boards of what they want to happen in their lives that year. 

If you don’t know what a vision board is, the idea is pretty simple: it’s a single canvas or poster that contains visual symbols (clippings from magazines, pictures or sometimes found objects) that stand-in for a person’s goals or aspirations. For example, if you want to earn more money, your vision board might depict an image of a stack of one-hundred-dollar bills; if your goal is to read more books, you might include images of books or words. What is essential is that the image speaks to—and accurately represents—your aspirations.

In other words, it's an exercise in visualization: a technique that has been practiced by athletes and psychologists for over fifty years. According to an article in Psychology Today, “Brain studies now reveal that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions. Mental imagery impacts many cognitive practices in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. So the brain is getting trained for actual performance during visualization. It’s been found that mental practices can enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success and increase states of flow.” 

With the change to remote learning that occurred immediately after Spring Break, Wong encouraged students to share their vision boards with each other in the BlueJeans conference that is held at the same time as her class would have had its in-person sessions.  Wong’s students seemed to have adapted to the transition to online learning well enough; and because Wilson-Perlman had brought magazines from different countries and different areas of hospitality and tourism industries for the students prior to Spring Break, students were able to think about their goals and to find accurate representations of them.

Envisioning A Positive Future

Creating vision boards is also a unique exercise for this moment in time. While students—like the rest of us—are stuck at home, the vision board exercise asked them to imagine futures beyond the pandemic. Student Emily Lorge created a vision board focused on her love of food culture, and language. 

“I really like different cultures,” she said when she presented her vision board to the class. “I also want to learn a new language, maybe French, in the next couple of years. Working in a European cafe is a dream of mine—I just love those little espresso cups.” Lorge also included a picture from the recent film Little Women—a film she watched and loved, and that inspired her to read the entire 800-page novel over Spring Break. 

A common theme shared by this group of Hospitality and Tourism majors was their desire to travel. Dream destinations included: France, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, New Orleans, Bali and even nearby Lake Tahoe.  Yet, it wasn’t all about pie-in-the-sky dreams: students also articulated very attainably, academic goals for themselves. 

Another student, Kaelehn Nemeth, who included a picture of a person reading a book, admitted: “I’m actually hoping to improve on my reading. I am not a fan whatsoever, but hopefully, I can become a better reader and just start reading and picking up books without struggling, or having to put it down,” she said. 

Perhaps an unintended result of the vision board exercise was getting students to imagine possibilities for themselves that they hadn’t considered. “This exercise enabled the students to share their big dreams and goals with each other,” said Wong. “It was interesting to hear students sharing their insights. I hope it sparked curiosity in the other students to explore other destinations, cultures, and topics they might not have considered.” One student mentioned that she liked the exercise so much, that she is already working on another one.

In any case, the exercise gestured to a world beyond COVID-19, which is certainly a world worth envisioning. 

For more information about TMCC’s Hospitality and Tourism Program, contact the Program Coordinator Vanina Coudriet at 775-857-8591.