February 20, 2018

Purdue Profiles: Sandra Sydnor

Sandra Sydnor Sandra Sydnor, associate professor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. (Purdue University photo/Alex Kumar)
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Sandra Sydnor, an associate professor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, works every day to achieve mindfulness in her own life and in the lives of her students. Sydnor is researching how travel, such as studying abroad, can help people become more mindful, or more aware of experiences taking place at that moment.

Sydnor is a member of the Purdue Tourism and Hospitality Research Center and is a coach for the faculty success program, where she often discusses mindfulness and how it can help faculty achieve a positive work-life balance.

What other responsibilities do you have at Purdue?

I’m a co-advisor for the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, which is a group that was started by faculty and students at Cornell University in 1989. The purpose of the organization is to aid in the recruitment, support, retention and advancement of minority students in the hospitality industry. Many have traditionally found it difficult to be viable contenders for jobs and stay in those jobs.

How did you develop your current research interests?

Student mental well-being is compromised like no other time in history. We’ve seen more students who have prescriptions for drugs to control fear, anxiety and depression than we ever have before. We know that mindfulness and mindfulness training have an evidence-based, positive impact on mitigating those very same things. So, with my background -- I happened to be involved with the study abroad program at the time -- I just put the two together. Now what I’m considering doing is introducing a one- to two-minute mindfulness check in class before we start.

What is your background in academia?

I came to Purdue in 2009 with a newly minted PhD from The Ohio State University. I spent a lot of time in industry prior to going back and getting a terminal degree, but I’ve always taught, even when I was in industry, as an adjunct wherever I landed. My undergraduate training was in engineering, and I took a job in Miami, Florida, where I taught at Miami-Dade Community College as an adjunct. When I moved to Columbus, Ohio, as a Burger King franchisee, I taught at several colleges in the area, including Ohio State, as an adjunct and ended up doing my doctoral work there.

How do you apply your industry experience in the classroom?

We operated three restaurants across the cities of Columbus and Dublin, Ohio, and all of my classes are infused with this entrepreneurial spirit. Having been an entrepreneur, I know the rewards that come from making something where there was nothing. It is so fulfilling. It also is the perfect lab and opportunity to put theory to application.

How does HTM prepare students for life after graduation?

Most students have to do a rotation through the John Purdue Room and Boiler Bistro before they graduate. We use them as "living labs." Students will go on to work for corporate, American, big-brand names, or for smaller, boutique-like companies, and they’ll be able to contribute because they’ve already had the experience. There’s an element of service excellence that catapults companies to be high-performing leaders. It’s that service element that distinguishes us from other disciplines, and it’s also the reason why industries like health care are coming to us now and saying, "How do we build excellent service into the architecture of our business?"

Writer: Joseph Paul, 765-494-9541, paul102@purdue.edu

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