Designing a hospitality degree

OSU-Cascades hopes to launch program next year

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Feb 8, 2014 at 12:01AM

At the urging of local business leaders, Oregon State University-Cascades Campus is designing a hospitality management degree program it hopes to launch this fall.

In November, the university received $320,000 from the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association and other hospitality businesses to fund the development of a four-year undergraduate program to serve what is a $9 billion industry in the state. The program, which still needs approval from the Oregon University System, is being created by Todd Montgomery, who has 15 years of experience in the field all around the world, with stops in Saipan, Bali and Sydney. The university currently allows undergraduate business students the ability to concentrate in hospitality management, but this new program will be the state’s only public, four-year program dedicated to the field of hospitality management.

“This is a unique situation, where the funding has been provided by the stakeholders to develop something they need,” Montgomery said. “Tourism and hospitality are such a big business in Oregon, and especially with all we have in Bend, it’s a perfect fit for students to learn here.”

Montgomery, who is also an instructor at OSU-Cascades, said the program will include an emphasis on ecotourism and sustainability, as well as integrating coursework with Central Oregon Community College’s Cascade Culinary Institute.

“While there will be a focus on the core knowledge and skills of the field, this will have a multidisciplinary approach,” Montgomery said. “It doesn’t make sense for us to build a culinary school when we have a great one nearby or to recruit faculty for ecotourism and sustainability when they already exist here.”

In hospitality, sustainability refers not only to the operations of a restaurant or resort, such as recycling and building systems, but to the interaction of the business and its guests with its host environment.

“Internationally, there’s been this ‘turn and burn’ mentality,” Montgomery said.

“Take for instance a pristine beach in Thailand. People come to that destination for the resource, but if the presence of the resort spoils it, that’s a bad situation for all involved.”

Keeping students up to date on the latest hospitality technology will also be a focus of the program.

“The industry changes rapidly, but it’s a very old one too, reaching all the way back to biblical times,” Montgomery said. “But technology has really been a game-changer, what someone says about a product can impact it immediately. That feedback loop is just immediate.”

OSU-Cascades Admissions Adviser Danny Cecchini said he has seen “a huge demand” for a hospitality program.

“It’s such a good fit for Central Oregon,” Cecchini said. “With all the hotels and resorts, I can see it attracting everyone from high school to transfer students. You can have art and business anywhere, but this program makes sense to have here, and the demand is definitely there.”

Scott Huntsman, CEO and president of Black Butte Ranch, said the student demand is complemented by an industry need.

“There’s a need to foster a better level of talent in Central Oregon,” Hunstman said. “Frankly, the area is lacking right now, and to get people for mid-level management, we’re having to go out of the area, even though it’s one of the largest employers in the region.”

Montgomery said the goal will be to train students, so they can enter the Central Oregon tourism industry right after earning their degree.

“We want students to be able to hit the ground running, to understand the language used in this industry and the systems we have,” Montgomery said. “It’s hard to quantify, but students used to leave Oregon to study hospitality, and when they left, they were gone. Now we will be able to teach them and keep them here.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com