Collaboration gives students a chance to use Spanish in the workplace
Leandro Salinas, a food service worker in Purdue Memorial Union, shows student Diana Leedy how to make soup. A collaboration between Housing and Food Services, Hospitality and Tourism Management and Ivy Tech allows students to participate in on-the-job interactions with Spanish-speaking employees who work in HFS. (Photo courtesy of Heidi Herron Johnson)
Housing and Food Services has long promoted itself as a learning laboratory for students.
Thanks to a recent collaboration with Ivy Tech and Purdue's Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, this image is being reinforced.
In an industry with many Spanish-speaking employees, HTM students expressed an interest in using their classroom Spanish in a workplace setting.
Howard Adler, the C.B. Smith Professor of Hotel Management, designed a curriculum for students in HTM 399 to participate in on-the-job interactions with Spanish-speaking employees who work in HFS. Heidi Herron-Johnson, a limited term lecturer, was brought in from Ivy Tech to observe the interactions, help design the curriculum and teach the course. HTM 399 is currently on a trial basis as a new three-credit hour course.
Adler says, "This was meant as a way for students to use what they were learning."
Adler stresses that this collaboration was not meant to replace Spanish classes at Purdue. In fact, students are required to have taken at least two semesters of Spanish and must fill out an application before they can enroll in this course.
HTM students are required to complete three hospitality-related tasks in various HFS venues across campus. Most students opted to pretend to be an employer in Human Resource Services and interviewed a current HFS employee for a fictitious job. Other tasks included preparing black bean salsa, setting a table and preparing a hotel room.
"What a great way to accelerate the learning of the language," HFS vice president John Sautter says.
And not only did this application of classroom concepts help the HTM students, Sautter says, but the HFS employees have enjoyed interacting with the students.
"It was great to see how eager they are to learn our language," says HFS employee Concepción Ehrlich, a service worker in Earhart Hall. "I also see this as a chance to pay it forward from the many people who helped me to understand English when I first arrived in this beautiful country."
Sautter and Adler agree that this type of hands-on learning is important for hospitality students. The HFS-HTM collaboration provides students with a more specialized method to learn the language and the industry.
Due to funding, HTM 399 is offered only one semester per year. However, all parties are eager to continue the course, tweaking it along the way.
"If you try to get into too much, you're overreaching," Adler says. "The goal for coming out of this class would be the students can take what they've learned from this class and be in a better position to supervise and manage employees whose primary language is Spanish.
"When an employee sees that an employer is making an effort to learn their language and their culture, they get a good feeling. It's been beneficial to everybody."