STHM faculty tapped as panelists at national hospitality conference on diversity
By Emily Ivy Scott
A national conference geared toward diversity and inclusion in the hospitality industry tapped a trio of faculty from Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) as panelists and featured speakers.
Director of Development and Alumni Relations Jeffrey Montague; Associate Professor Dr. Debra Blair; and Assistant Professor Dr. Erinn Tucker represented STHM at the Diversity & Inclusion Conference, held April 27-28 at Philadelphia’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The annual conference, sponsored by Lodging Media and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, brought together educators and industry professions to create a forum and enhance corporate social responsibility, accessibility to education, and cross-cultural understanding within the hospitality industry.
Tucker led a faculty think-tank session at Temple University’s Center City campus on the conference’s first day, directing a conversation on the roles played by diversity within higher education. She opened the session with a rhetorical question, wondering how higher education can better recruit underrepresented high school students from a shrinking pool of candidates.
Panelists for the think tank included Montague; Susana Baumann, director of LCS Worldwide, a New Jersey-based multicultural marketing consulting firm and the editor-in-chief of LatinasInBusiness.us; and Victor B. Younger, director of diversity and inclusion in the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University.
Blair sat on a panel during the conference’s second day, with the session focusing on best practices for accomplishing diversity in the hospitality industry. She was joined in the Ritz-Carlton’s Grand Ballroom by moderator Nolan Atkinson Jr., chief diversity and inclusion officer for the City of Philadelphia; and fellow panelists Patricia Lee, senior vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer for Wyndham Worldwide; Laura Fuentes, senior vice president of talent, rewards, analytics, diversity, and inclusion for Hilton Worldwide; David Lipson, chairman and CEO of Metrocorp; and Omari Head, associate at Paramount Lodging Advisors.
Atkinson led the conversation by asking whether strategic planning, from an academic perspective, can lead to success.
Said Blair: “We see a lot of situations where people have good intentions, and a strategic plan that is somewhat visible to the public, but we can’t necessarily see the metrics and numbers that show it. We are about producing a product that is not only prepared for the market, but we also teach our students about diversity and inclusion. We teach them how to develop, execute, and complete analysis of a diversity and inclusion strategic plan, and I think that education is key.”
In her classes, Blair added, she encourages her students to comb through corporate websites in order to better educate them about diversity in the industry. She believes the conversation on diversity needs to change, and encompass diversity of race, gender, physical ability, and sexual orientation.
“If you’re doing all of the right things, hiring and promoting the right people, having the right data, you are going to have bottom-line results as far as engagement is concerned,” said Lee, who in 2014 visited STHM as an Executive in Residence. “Our chairman and president Steve Holmes once told me, ‘Patti, the real measurement of success is that every time an associate gets onto a stage and looks out into the audience of Wyndham employees, they see themselves.’”