Congratulations and thank you for opening your doors to us. It’s been an eye opener for me and for my readers, I’m sure. We appreciate the efforts being made by UCC on the educational front in the hospitality and tourism industry.
HOST: Thank you Dr. Amissah for making yourself available for this chat. Industry entrepreneurs may brand university graduates as ‘book-long’ or bookish. Would making the department’s research findings more public, help to erode this image?
GUEST: I do appreciate you reaching to us and showcasing the department on your blog. On the question of branding our graduates as ‘bookish’ or ‘book-long’, I feel that making our research findings available to industry is one way of debunking this misconception. There are other ways that we can diffuse this misconception on the part of industry or entrepreneurs in the industry.
Our program, BSc Hospitality and Tourism started about 22 years ago, when we were then with the Department of Geography and Tourism. I remember as part of the first batch of BSc. students, the courses we did were purely geography; we didn’t really know what the hospitality and tourism aspect was.
After 12/13 years, we decided as a department to review the whole program due to the complaints coming from industry and entrepreneurs on the content of our program and the ‘bookish’ nature of our graduates then. We invited some members of the industry who came and made significant inputs leading to the department divorcing from the department of geography and distinguishing itself as the department of hospitality and tourism management.
On the heels of this we introduced practical courses, engaged lecturers who have had some industry experiences to bring industry to the classroom; we introduced 8-weeks internship program for our students, followed up on them while they were on the field, engaged with the respective organizations they were having the internship to identify areas which needed to be sharpened. All these really helped in enhancing the kind of graduates we churned out. And we have since been following this pattern.
With all these efforts industry still considers our students as bookish? It’s rather unfortunate because whatever industry says, we as academia try to incorporate them into our curricula.
Our colleagues share their research findings with industry, we have also shared research findings with regulatory bodies some of which have led to policy modifications and other strategies being developed. So I believe we can use research findings to change the perception.
I also think more needs to be done on the part of industry to understand the role of academia in producing personnel for the industry.
HOST: You see, industry has peculiar problems which are not addressed in our text books.
HOST: So when one hears graduate students being described as ‘book-long’, I understand it from this angle that our graduates do not take the initiative to address the peculiar industry problems or come up with suggestions for industry on those challenges.
GUEST: I do agree with you on that but I also have my own reservations. Our educational system currently finds itself mixing the US and the UK forms. It is not clear which one we are operating now. The American system fits students for the job; meaning, students are taught how to perform particular jobs. The British system on the other hand introduces the general view and environment of the industry students are in, then teaches students how to think, analyze, synthesize and be creative in finding solutions to problems. In Ghana, we are trying to blend these two and it has been quite challenging.
The university education now is to prepare you to look at things broadly, but industry wants ‘freshly baked graduates’. I believe that is not the way to go. There is difference between classroom and on-the -job. Industry needs to orient our graduates adequately enough to apply themselves. Ritz Carlton Hotel does orientation for a whole year. Such an exposure for our students will bring out the best in them. So I think academia and industry need to ‘jaw-jaw’ on these issues and come to a conclusion on the way forward.
HOST: I agree with you. There is still a lot more that academia and industry must be doing together to get our students to get the maximum in their hospitality and tourism educational experience. Thank you very much.
HOST: In the presentation which featured last week, you described the department as unique. You indicated that you have three Professors in the department. The title ‘Professor’, I believe is the highest academic rank at a university. How does this impart on the department?
GUEST: We as a department have been priding ourselves of this. To clarify, within academia there is the Associate Professor status and the Full Professor status; the latter being the ultimate (the topmost level). And we have three Full Professors in the department!
Full Professors are not easy to come by even in a university. In the whole of UCC, we have about 20 Full Professors and to have three in our department, we think that is something we should pride ourselves in. We are a very young department, about ten years old, we see it as an achievement. We are also the only one in the sub-region now with this many Full Professors in a department. We are only 11 staff and we have 2 Associate Professors and 3 Full Professors; almost half of us have the professor rank-this is commendable.
In relation to the imparting, the professor status comes with rich experiences. The individuals are well vexed in their areas (one is in Hospitality and two are in Tourism). They have researched extensively on various problems in their respective areas in industry. We see them to be the best to make significant impact on our young graduates.
This conversation continues as Part 3 coming up next week.