Wyoming’s second-largest industry and future University of Wyoming graduates will benefit from a new minor in hospitality business management offered in UW’s College of Business.

Additionally, the college has created a new leadership minor aimed at preparing students to be leaders in every facet of their lives.

Scheduled to launch this fall, the minors represent the college’s commitment to give its graduates practical skills that can be put to use in the business world, while contributing to the economic vitality of Wyoming and beyond.

“We’re excited about these new minors and the opportunities they will provide for our students,” College of Business Dean Dave Sprott says. “They also promise to help us produce graduates who will be even more prepared to contribute to the state’s economy, their employers and their communities.”

The hospitality business management minor -- which will serve as the foundation for eventual creation of a bachelor’s degree in the field -- is being developed in collaboration with Wyoming community colleges, Wyoming’s Office of Tourism and industry partners. Other collaborators are UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

The minor will include new hospitality courses delivered through the College of Business, in addition to interdisciplinary electives currently offered at UW and through the state’s community colleges. Student accessibility is a priority and, to this end, some electives will be available online.

The new minor will complement the outdoor recreation and tourism management degree launched in 2018 by the Haub School and the College of Business.

Wyoming’s hospitality and tourism industry was responsible for generating $3.9 billion in visitor spending and $203 million in state and local tax revenues in 2019. Additionally, the industry generated over 32,480 jobs.

“We are thrilled to see this important degree program continue to grow and evolve,” says Chris Brown, executive director of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association and the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition. “The addition of the hospitality business management minor will strengthen our state’s second-largest industry by educating the next generation of hospitality industry leaders.”

“We are thrilled to see UW’s College of Business provide such an innovative program to educate Wyoming’s next generation of hospitality and tourism professionals,” says Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism. “The addition of hospitality education has been something our industry has long awaited. Bolstering this industry will be vital in strengthening and diversifying our local and state economies going forward.”

Industry and community college partners have been at the table during program design as the College of Business not only considered course content, but also opportunities for statewide industry engagement such as on-site projects -- and internships that lead to addressing the current shortfall in filling hospitality positions requiring a bachelor’s degree.

Steve Farkas, assistant dean for the College of Business, says market research revealed that students are leaving Wyoming to complete their hospitality management education beyond an associate degree, and they often do not return. Of the over 350 prospective students surveyed, 80 percent expressed interest in staying in the state to work if they were to pursue a degree at UW in either hospitality management or outdoor recreation and tourism.

“We also learned through our market analysis that, of the almost 400 hospitality management positions advertised last year in Wyoming, a significant percentage required a bachelor’s degree,” Farkas says.

Meanwhile, the leadership minor will be a unique curricular and co-curricular experience that helps students acquire the knowledge and experience necessary to develop leadership competencies. Required courses will include “Foundations in Leadership” and “Business Ethics,” and students will select two electives from a list of 21 other courses. A capstone project, in which each student will lead a large-scale project involving others, also is part of the curriculum.

Students in the leadership minor also will be expected to complete the Cowboy Leadership Badge by participating in campus and community activities outside the classroom, such as attending designated campus events and taking part in service projects.

“The point of the leadership minor is to help UW students become leaders – first as students on the UW campus and, subsequently, in their professional organizations and communities,” says Chase Thiel, an associate professor of management in the College of Business and sponsor of the leadership minor. “For this to happen, their leadership education must involve more than just learning leadership theory. They must have opportunities to put those theoretical principles into practice.”

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