Yiqi Wang (left), a doctoral student in hospitality management, is one of four students on the planning committee for the upcoming Central CHRIE (Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education) Federation conference. Here, Wang is pictured with Greg Peterson, general manager of the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center, where the conference will be held. Photo by Ryan Riley.

Bridging academia and industry in hospitality and event management

Iowa State University will next week host a conference in hospitality and tourism that will allow the university to showcase its leadership in the industry, while giving students a chance to apply their classroom learning.

The 3rd annual Central CHRIE (Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education) Federation regional conference will bring students and faculty from around the world together with industry professionals, April 6 and 7 at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center. Four Iowa State students serve on the conference planning committee.

“Being a part of the planning committee really brought some of my core classes back into perspective,” said Erin Dominguez, a senior in event management and the conference welcoming coordinator.

“Helping plan CHRIE has helped me transfer what I learned in the classroom to a real-life situation,” said Anna Randleman, a senior in event management who coordinated conference speakers. “I was able to take concepts learned throughout my time here at ISU to the actual conference.”

The Central CHRIE Federation is a professional association that aims to improve and advance teaching, learning, research, and practice in hospitality and tourism. The association represents 15 states and is one of six federations of I-CHRIE, the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education.

Top-ranked hospitality program

Iowa State University won the opportunity to host the conference after placing a bid last year. Iowa State’s hospitality management major is known worldwide for its excellence in research. It’s been ranked 15th among the world’s top 100 hospitality and tourism programs, according to the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research. The program is home to the Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom, a 100-seat nonprofit restaurant/learning laboratory operated by students in the Quantity Food Production and Service Management Experience class.

“We have a top-ranked hospitality and event management program,” said Joan Su, the conference planning chair and an assistant professor in apparel, events, and hospitality management. “I want to increase the visibility of the AESHM department and Iowa State.”

The two-day conference will take participants beyond the classroom. Participation is open not only to members of the 15-state federation, but also to those currently working in the hospitality industry. The conference agenda includes presentations of 41 research papers on topics ranging from gambling to nonprofit fundraising, workshops on teaching hospitality management, and speeches by top industry leaders who will discuss trends in the field.

Speakers include Wes Ehrecke, president and chief executive officer of the Iowa Gaming Association; Stacy Kluesner, director of marketing and association development of the Iowa Restaurant Association; Abid Talic, president of the Iowa Lodging Association and regional general manager of the Paramount Hotel Group; and LuAnn Reinders, research and insights manager of the Iowa Tourism Office.   

Event management in the real world

Iowa State is home of the only four-year event management major in the state. Graduates of the program are especially trained to know the operational and ethical challenges of executing an event in the 21st century — from risk management to proper stage setup. The program, which began in 2011, has 426 graduates and currently enrolls 369 students majoring in event management and 72 who list event management as their minor.

Sidney Presnell, a senior in public relations and event management, served as the food and beverage coordinator for the conference.

“I learned how to be professional while meeting with other professionals at different organizations,” Presnell said. “This let me learn the process of how to put on a successful event and that communication is key. I got to work with a budget in my role that led me to look closely at pricing and make negotiations. Taking event classes the last three years has made it easier to fulfill my role in this conference.”

Both hospitality and event management have an international component. The industry caters to clients worldwide. Meanwhile, educators, students, and those working in the field are from around the globe, as well. The conference includes participants from Egypt and Macau.

“As an international student, it is a great opportunity for me to experience different communication and negotiation processes with American companies, which is quite different from my motherland, China,” said Yiqi Wang, the conference set-up coordinator and a doctoral student in hospitality management. “As a coordinator, I had the chance to see how the things are planned and settled and practice what I have learned from textbooks in the real world.”

Long history of leadership

Iowa State’s Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management has a long history of leadership within I-CHRIE and the Central CHRIE Federation.  

Former department chair Bob Bosselman was the founding president of the Central CHRIE Federation and currently serves as chair of the I-CHRIE Future Fund Committee. Thomas Schrier, associate professor and director of the hospitality program, is immediate past president of the Central CHRIE Federation.

Assistant professor Ken Tsai is director of research. Assistant professor Eunha “Lena” Jeong is director of marketing. Assistant professor Joan Su is the 2018 Central CHRIE Conference chair, while associate professor Eric Brown is director of membership on the I-CHRIE Board.