WSU Tri-Cities Hospitality Business Management program continues to grow

Last spring, WSU Tri-Cities announced a new degree program after the university’s faculty senate approved expanding the Hospitality Business Management Degree to the Richland campus.

[blockquote quote=”One of the main reasons for bringing the program here is because of the growing wine industry.” source=”Dr. Robert Harrington, professor of hospitality at WSU” align=”right” max_width=”300px”]

The program has already attracted nearly 20 undergraduate students. One of them, Pauline Garza, will be graduate in December after completing several classes and a study-abroad in Italy.

Garza has vast experience in the restaurant industry, even doing a job shadow at Table 10, one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants in Las Vegas. Garza, now head chef at 3 Eyed Fish and Wine Bar in Richland, was thrilled when she heard the program would be expanded to the Tri-Cities campus. Garza originally started her degree at the WSU Pullman campus, but due to personal reasons, decided to move back home and put school on hold.

“I was a little bummed they weren’t offering the same degree here in the Tri-Cities, so I decided to work and continue my studies in business,” Garza said.

When the school announced it would extend the program to the Richland campus, it fit right into Garza’s plan.

“Here comes my senior year and I’m beyond excited that they gave me the news that the hospitality program was going to be here,” she said.

Garza hopes to one day own a bistro or manage a restaurant. She hopes her story serves as an inspiration to those studying hospitality in the Tri-Cities.

“Being in the industry, I’ve had such great experiences and exposure in the food business, customer services and the wine industry,” she said. “Everything has fallen into place. What I am learning at work benefits my school work and what I am learning at school, I can apply to my work.”

WSU officials began looking at bringing the hospitality management degree to the Richland campus last year after a survey was released that highlighted the area’s need for qualified professionals in the local hospitality, food and beverage, and food processing industry. The HBM degree would also provide ample opportunities for collaboration with the increasing number of wineries throughout the Mid-Columbia, Yakima and Walla Walla valleys.

“One of the main reasons for bringing the program here is because of the growing wine industry, but also other types of businesses related to the hospitality industry, like food and beverage, like micro brewing, ciders, distillery,” said Dr. Robert Harrington, professor of hospitality at WSU. “If you look at the Tri-Cities area, this is a great location as kind of a hub of growth in all those areas. This program will help support growth in wine tourism, a lot of people globally are looking to us to see what kind of educational infrastructure is associated with that.”

He believes the program is already having positive impact in the quality of life here and abroad. Students are required by the program to complete 1,000 hours of professional experience.

WSU’s hospitality program is part of WSU’s AACSB-accredited Carson College of Business. It was established in 1932, making it the third-oldest such program in the U.S. It consistently ranks among the nation’s top 10 hospitality programs.

The degree offers two majors: hospitality business management and wine business management. The program is the third-oldest hospitality program in the country. The program allows students to master the fundamentals of operating hotels, restaurants, manage services venues and tourist destinations. The program trains graduates in a broad range of wine business and related areas — from the management of wine production to the identification and development of demand generators.

“There has been continued interest in the program and we anticipate it growing continually,” said Harrington.

Having the Wine Science Center so close has also made the program in the Tri-Cities particularly appealing to students, said Harrington. A wine club operated by the Wine Science Center students also attracts students in the wine business management program interested in gaining exposure to organizing tours of wine country and hosting wine tastings.

“We moved the core aspect of wine business management here to this campus because of the close proximity to the wine science center,” said Harrington.

Another aspect they’re expanding in the program is by offering continuing education opportunities for local professionals. Called the Art of Hospitality, the seminars are designed to focus on different segments of the tourism industry, like wine, retail and service, and restaurant and hotels. Harrington and faculty member Byron Marlowe lead the seminars at The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center.

“We’re just getting started,” Harrington said. “Because of our location, were going to have a strong focus on the wine component, so we’re going to continue growing to attract students who are currently here or want to relocate here to take advantage of the employment opportunities in the local wine industry.”

Harrington also said they will work closely with surrounding community colleges to set up transfer programs to make it as smooth as possible for students who want to transfer to WSU for the hospitality business management degree after completing their associates.

In 2017, the school hopes to kick off an online wine business management certificate aimed at working professionals.

“I’m so excited we get to focus on food and beverage, I really do believe the Tri-Cities is growing an appreciation for the art of food and hospitality,” she added.

For more information about the program, go to tricities.wsu.edu/business.

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