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USM's tourism program forms board

HATTIESBURG — One of Dr. Catherine Price’s first objectives as new department chair of Casino, Hospitality and Tourism Management (CHTM) at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) was to form an advisory board. That goal became a reality when the inaugural meeting of the CHTM Advisory Board was held recently at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg.

“We have not had an advisory board such as this for years,” said Price. “I just thought it was time to get more industry involvement in the initiatives we’re working on in our department. I think it’s very important in academia to form partnerships with industry groups that hire your students.”

The new board includes members of the faculty and staff at USM as well as the members of the business and industry communities are: Shawn Donahue and Chris Morath with the Hattiesburg Olive Garden restaurant; Rick Taylor, executive director of visitHattiesburg (formerly known as the Hattiesburg Tourism Commission); and, Larry Gregory, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

Keith Schmitt, vice president of human resources for PCH Hotels Resorts of Alabama, serves as the board’s chairman.

Under Price’s leadership, the CHTM department has identified seven initiatives designed to enhance the curriculum and strengthen partnerships with business and industry. Perhaps the most significant of these is the push to develop graduate and undergraduate certificate programs.

Price also wanted the board to weigh in on a proposal to re-activate the B.S. hospitality management curriculum with a stronger emphasis on language, culture, service and international tourism issues as an alternative to the current BSBA, which focuses on more traditional inventory based business functions. The board voted unanimously to support the plan.

The advisory board is scheduled to meet again sometime in October.

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