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Want to Run a Hotel? Take Calculus

By Lori Weisberg, The San Diego Union-Tribune
March 15, 2011

Proficiency in calculus and accounting would hardly seem a useful tool for landing a job in the hotel and restaurant industry. Nor would producing or starring in your own music video or say, planning a reunion of cranky family members who rarely get along.

Yet those are precisely the sort of well-honed prerequisites that San Diego State University believes separate a successful would-be hotelier or catering manager from a 9-to-5’er more at ease working in an office cubicle.

Profile of two students: a senior and a grad
Since debuting its L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management nearly a decade ago, the campus has turned out more than 530 graduates and attracted the attention of some of the nation’s top hotel companies who each year come calling in hopes of recruiting the school’s most promising students.

Despite a severe economic downturn that hit the hospitality industry especially hard the last few years, the school has been able to place most of its students in industry jobs, some in management-level positions paying up to $40,000 the first year.

                                    Photo by Ernie Grafton

Students at San Diego State's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management cluster around a lounge outside faculty offices as they work on projects.

“Our students are taking all the same classes the business students take in terms of their core classes — statistics, finance, calculus — and they have to maintain a 3.0 GPA their first two years,” explained Carl Winston, director of the hospitality school, which bears the name of one of its largest benefactors. “If they’ don’t, they’re out of our major.”

It’s not unusual for about half the students who start out in the hospitality program to eventually drop out, but that’s a good thing, says Winston.

“Some people consider this a glamorous industry. A young woman will come in and say, ‘I saw this movie with Jennifer Lopez called The Wedding Planner, and I want to do this.’ We put them through a series of exercises the very first year that really weed them out.”

Not only do students have to survive the academic rigor of the hospitality major while working in the industry a minimum of 400 hours their first two years, they also have to learn how to be an adept team player, say school officials.

Music video

Take that music video, for example, one of several group projects the school requires over the course of the four-year program. The task assigned them is to produce a video about some aspect of the hospitality industry, but also sing and dance in their own production. It’s not for everyone, acknowledges Winston, but it’s better to discover that earlier than later, he says.

About the school

L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management

Founded: 2001 with a $1.1 million donation from L. Robert Payne, owner of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley.

Name change: When The L. Robert Payne and Patricia L. Payne Family Foundation donated an additional $2.4 million last year, the school’s name was changed to honor Payne.

Areas of emphasis:

• Hotel operations and management.

• Restaurant operations and management.

• Meetings and event operations and management.

• Tribal gaming operations and management.

Faculty: Mix of academics and local professionals in the hotel, restaurant and tourism industry.

Number of graduates since inception: 531

Average graduating class: 100 annually

• Just more than half leave San Diego upon graduation.

• 80 percent are female.

For the rest of the story please visit:


Lori Weisberg, Staff Writer
San Diego Union-Tribune
350 Camino de la Reina
San Diego, CA  92102

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