CIA Hospitality Management: Q&A with Dr. Joy Dickerson
Curious to know more about the CIA’s new Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management program? Want to know what kind of career opportunities await you, and where the industry is headed?
Then you’ll want to hear what Associate Professor Joy Dickerson has to say. Dr. Dickerson, who was most recently an associate professor and assistant dean for Widener University’s Center for Hospitality Management, brings more than 30 years of hospitality industry and education experience to share with CIA students.
What drew you to the CIA?
I am an advocate for hospitality education, and so it was exciting to see that everyone here is on the same page, with the same passion, whether it’s through culinary arts or baking and pastry or now the new program in hospitality management. And, of course, The Culinary Institute of America has such a great reputation. That’s just a great combination.
What gets you excited about the CIA hospitality management program? What makes it unique?
In my mind, the CIA hospitality management program is the perfect union with everything else that’s offered here. A lot of hospitality management programs are not food-centric. However, in the CIA’s program, there are 30 food and beverage credits. There’s also a semester-long hospitality management internship. So if a student has food interest plus management interest, the whole package is right here. That to me makes a really powerful candidate for hospitality employment.
What kinds of careers can our graduates look forward to?
The opportunities for hospitality management graduates are simply boundless, both in terms of sheer numbers and variety. There are so many industry segments to choose from. Students might go into restaurant management, where they can manage the back of the house, the front of the house, or be the general manager, and that’s just the beginning. They might also go into events management, casinos, cruise ships, or entertainment management. Being from Pennsylvania, I look at Hershey Entertainment. They have hotels, eateries, a theme park and attractions, a country club, and a stadium. So just in that two-mile radius, there are so many management opportunities, because every one of those venues needs to be led.
The managed services segment is just immense; these companies are looking for graduates who have the combination of a food background and a management background. In managed services, you could be working in higher education, a sports venue, or a tourist attraction. Just take a ballpark, for instance. They need managers of premium services, managers of catering, managers of concessions…there are just so many different opportunities.
I could go on. There’s food and beverage, and there’s hotel management. The events industry is just booming, and it’s more than social events—it’s also meetings and conventions. So our hospitality management graduates will be able to go anywhere.
You’ve had a successful career in hospitality. What got you interested in the field?
I started out as business major in management as a freshman at Penn State, and I was grappling with what it was that I wanted to manage. Some advisors on campus told me to look into hospitality because it gives you a focus. So that was number one. Number two, I love food! And number three, I am very service-oriented and I love to work with people. So hospitality was perfect for me. I love this industry. Even though I’m an educator, I still work with industry professionals and stay current with what’s going on; that’s what keeps the curriculum contemporary.
What do you see as the “next big thing” in the hospitality industry?
Data analytics are huge. People are using your data so that when you come into a hotel, they can personalize your service. For example, they already know that you like the ocean view and that you order the eggs Benedict for breakfast. So all of a sudden, you’re feeling really special. And that’s not just happening in the premium hotels; that’s everywhere. As the industry gets more and more competitive, we’re moving towards making your experience your experience. I think that’s a necessity. Other big topics are, of course, technology, sustainability, and the farm-to-table movement.
Is there anything else a student or parent should know?
The hospitality industry, both directly and indirectly, is a huge contributor to the economy; tourism is about 10.2% of GDP. Further, the career opportunities are limitless. If you don’t like one area or segment, great; we’re going to introduce you to other opportunities. You just have to know who you are and what you like. Also, the industry growth outlook is still really great, and that’s in every sector. And finally, when you earn your bachelor’s degree, when you graduate with the right education and work experience, you’re setting yourself up for a faster rate of promotion. That’s what we’re seeing.