To spur his students to global exploration, Liping Cai, professor of hospitality and tourism management, often shares a quote from St. Augustine. "The world is a great book," the theologian philosophized, "of which they that never stir from home read only a page." In that context, Purdue's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) is helping to produce some voracious readers.
Consider Jenny (Jiyeon) Lee (HTM '00). Now a professor in the Australian School of Business and program director in services marketing tourism at the University of New South Wales, Lee earned her first degree in science education in her native Seoul, South Korea. "I taught chemistry and earth science at a Korean high school for a year, but wasn't very challenged," Lee says. "I wanted a bigger place where I wouldn't have limitations on my life."
Purdue's internationally top-ranked HTM program allowed Lee to learn in the Crossroads of America. Lee's global perspective changed by coming overseas. She has since visited almost every U.S. state and many countries in Europe. After Purdue, internships at the Hilton and Marriott gave her critical insight into tourism operations.
Cai, also director of Purdue's Tourism and Hospitality Research Center, says the increasingly global nature of the travel business has created career opportunities for HTM students. "There is a new wave of U.S.-based multinational hospitality and tourism firms aggressively entering new markets for expansion and growth," he says. "Last year, Marriott International signed its 100th hotel in China and plans to open a hotel in that country every month for at least the next three years."
With the global marketplace in mind, HTM students often travel. The school claims the highest percentage of its students in the college who take advantage of international learning experiences. Those opportunities range from spring break field trips to six-month internships.
Katey Wheeler, an HTM senior, worked for six months as a guest relations intern for Shangri-La Hotel, Qingdao, China. The half-year changed her life. "I had to catch on to their language very quickly," says Wheeler, who plans to return to the company. "Luckily, I had my iPhone and used a Chinese/English dictionary."
For an academic like Lee, the global experience informs her worldview. "My travel experiences are often integrated into my teaching and research," says Lee, who looks at tourism marketing through the eyes of a tourist, specifically from a psychological and behavioral standpoint.
Cai, also the associate dean for diversity and international programs, noted Lee's dedication on a visit to New South Wales. "She's truly concerned for the intellectual and personal growth of her students."
Though she still travels to the U.S. regularly, Lee feels right at home as a professor in Sydney. "There's a unique mindset in Australia. We have centralized decision-making like many Asian countries, but equality and harmony are important among colleagues and within the classroom. It's really a mixture of Eastern and Western culture."
That harmonic accord suits the world traveler just fine. As for Wheeler and others following in her footsteps, whether in business or academia, Cai says: "To better serve tourists, our students need to be educated travelers themselves."