Purdue’s first Spirit of Hospitality Summit to showcase national leaders, student engagement

HTM graphic

Graphic by April Holajter

The first Spirit of Hospitality Summit will celebrate Purdue University’s legacy of hospitality while showcasing the latest program initiatives housed in the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM).

Organized by HTM faculty, staff and students in the College of Health and Human Sciences, the summit aims to bring together industry thought leaders, alumni, faculty, and undergraduate and graduate students to network and learn about pressing topics and trends that are shaping the future of the hospitality industry. Specifically, the free and open-to-the-public event will:

  • Cultivate the next generation of leaders with a hospitality mindset.
  • Stimulate creativity and innovation in research and practice.
  • Celebrate the spirit of hospitality and hospitality’s role in society.

“The mission is to bring people back to campus — alumni and industry — as well as having the students engaging and learning through this event,” said Stephen Leitch, HTM clinical assistant professor. “This is the first event of its kind for our department.”

Set for 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 29 and 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sept. 30 in the Purdue Memorial Union, Stewart Center and Marriott Hall, the Purdue Hospitality Summit will enrich learning for all stakeholders and elevate Purdue HTM’s visibility, leadership and image. The summit encompasses all majors housed in the department — hospitality and tourism management, retail management, financial counseling and planning, and selling and sales management. The event will also include student presentations, networking opportunities, research opportunities, awards and grant announcements. 

While free, registration is required for the event.

Attendees will learn from respected keynote speakers and industry-lead roundtables in a convention-style atmosphere. In all, the summit will include more than 50 speakers and sessions. Leaders from companies such as Findability Sciences, Marriott and Von Maur will join Indiana-based executives from IU Health, Indiana Destination Development Corporation and Lafayette’s own Arni’s Restaurant as keynote speakers and panelists, among many others. When not at podiums, these influential industry workers will be available to meet students.

“We are hoping it will inspire the students by showing them that our great alumni are in all sorts of industries. They’ve ended up all over the world. We want to show them that what these alumni can do, they can do,” Leitch said. “They’ll get the chance to network and communicate with industry thought leaders, alumni, local business owners — giving them that rare opportunity to walk up to somebody in a high-profile position, shake their hand and have a conversation.”

Topics explored at the Spirit of Hospitality Summit will include current and future issues, such as big data and AI disrupting traditional hospitality companies and how the companies can utilize such digital advances. More sessions will focus on digital economy, social media trends and “experience economy,” a vital tool in hospitality’s belt.

“No longer can you just provide good service,” Leitch explained. “What we’re trying to do in all four of our majors is be experience engineers and create meaningful experiences for customers. That’s what people want, and that’s what people are willing to pay more for — an experience. Starbucks is a great example: Never before would we pay $8 for a cup of coffee, but we do because we want that experience.”

Ceridwyn King, professor and new HTM school head, said the summit’s original purpose was to “celebrate and invigorate the industry” after a tough two years through the COVID-19 pandemic. The event has grown into something much more.

“I think what makes this event so special is that it really morphed into something that really speaks to the essence of who we are as a school,” said King, adding that the summit will return in 2023. “We have a lot of synergies in all four majors in providing what I call transformational experiences for our respective stakeholders. “This event is naturally going to show everyone that attends how the family in the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management is diverse yet shares a strong tie that brings us all together. Hospitality is no longer just an industry. The skillsets that we teach within our programs allow students to work in many industries. It’s about building relationships, focusing on experiences and how we connect with our stakeholders. It really is going to showcase the excellence we have in our school as well as the strong relationships we have forged with industry over the years”