Posted February 14, 2007

School of Tourism and Hospitality Management capstone prepares students for the real world

Something sets apart a Temple University School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) graduate, a certain “Be all that you can be” aura. It comes from the boot camp of the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, better known as the Senior Seminar.

After STHM students have completed all their prerequisites, which include industry-specific courses in marketing, financial accounting and legal issues, among others, the real test begins: a white-knuckle battle of nerves, one of the school’s most intense preparations for the high-paced world of events management.

In this capstone class, students function as a corporation to plan, organize, market and finance STHM events. This semester, students are working on the Senior Brunch and the Networking Seminar. Last fall, students organized the Semi-Formal dance and Career Day. The Senior Seminar is responsible for producing these annual events for underclassmen.

And when it’s all over, the students can feel good about the results: Proceeds not spent on the events themselves go toward scholarships — which the students themselves designate.

STHM Assistant Dean Jeffrey Montague created the class 15 years ago and has been ”CEO” of the students’ one-semester corporation, Montague and Associates, even since.

Montague said, “The senior seminar culminates all the classes and coursework that they’ve had from freshman to senior year. I tell the students on the first day of class, ‘Now that you’ve learned all this stuff, show me what you’ve learned.’”

Two seminars are taught per semester, one on Main Campus, and one at Temple University Center City. The two sections collaborate on a newsletter and on fundraising activities, while the planning details for events are handled individually in each class.

At the start of the semester, one student is assigned to be the president of Montague and Associates. The rest are made chairs and members of seven committees, from the marketing committee, which supervises everything from the making of business cards to publicizing events, to the volunteer committee, which emphasizes the company’s social contributions through organizing volunteer opportunities such as The Race for the Cure. Others take part in the conference, project, fundraising, budget and newsletter committees (each student must write an article for the Montague and Associates monthly newsletter).

Montague assigns positions based on what he deems are each student’s weaknesses.

In this way, he says, the students are challenged not just by the overall objective of making the events happen, but also by their own personal limitations, and the difficulties of working in a hierarchical group.

Montague explained, “I appoint people based on their weaknesses to push them, that’s where the challenges come from. I am trying to stop the students from thinking ‘I and me,’ and to start them thinking ‘us and we.’ The goal is to get the 40 students in the class on the same page and working as a team, while they work to improve upon their own personal weaknesses.”

According to STHM senior Dorsey Spencer (STHM, ‘07), who was appointed chair of the fundraising committee last semester for the TUCC group, the approach was tough, but effective.

“Delegating was particularly difficult for me, because I like to make sure things are done perfectly,” he said. “I put specific people in charge of different things, but sometimes their work was not up to par. I had to learn not to do other people’s work for them. Ultimately, everyone has to be held accountable. So sometimes we weren’t working with 100 percent of our resources, but we learned a lot along the way.”

It all paid off in December, when Spencer and his classmates kicked back and enjoyed the events they labored to make happen. Last semester, the TUCC class, which planned the Semi Formal, donated its proceeds help incoming STHM freshmen pay for books, and to help seniors with travel expenses for their internships. The Main Campus class donated the funds from Career Day toward current STHM students in need of financial assistance.

“This class is sort of a rite of passage,” said Montague. “Learning by rote is replaced with making critical decisions within a professional environment. The class has a reputation, and most students are extremely anxious at first, but if you can make it through this class, you can make it anywhere.”