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Four New Diversity Scholars Display Excellence and Expand the Reach of STHM

By: School of Tourism & Hospitality Management
First Published: October 1, 2021
Topics: Inclusive Culture, Sport, STHM School, STHM Strategic Plan 2025, Student Stories, Tourism & Hospitality

Since STHM’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) launched in 2020, one of its primary initiatives has been to establish a series of scholarships that expand the diversity of the student body. These opportunities for funding have made STHM degrees possible for an even wider array of students, including four master’s degree candidates from historically underrepresented groups.

“We’ve long been committed to advancing at many levels the values of DEI within the industries we serve,” says ODEI Co-Director and Associate Professor Debra Blair, “from DEI related capacity-building trainings with industry leadership to creating unique learning opportunities for our diverse student groups. At the level of student recruitment, we’ve devised scholarships to broaden opportunities for highly motivated individuals who will undoubtedly enrich our student body.”

Although the term “diversity” tends to evoke racial and ethnic diversity, these scholarships are intended to expand access to members of all groups who have not been fully represented in postsecondary education. This also includes first‐generation low-income (FGLI) students, community college students, students from households with lower socio-economic status, students with disabilities and students with marginalized identities (such as gender and sexual identity).

Recruiting students from underrepresented groups is a key initiative named in the school’s five-year strategic plan, which prioritizes an Inclusive Culture as one of its five pillars. “STHM has always thrived because of the wide array of backgrounds and experiences of our students,” says the school’s associate dean, Jeremy Jordan. “These scholarships will attract students whose inclusion makes our classrooms and other learning environments even more valuable for the entire STHM community.”

Pathway to STHM Honors a Distinguished Scholar-Athlete

In partnership with the department of Graduate Admissions, STHM has launched three scholarships that expand access to its four graduate programs. The need-based “Pathway to STHM” Scholarship (covering 75% of full graduate tuition) goes to an incoming student from an underrepresented population seeking one of the school’s three master’s degrees, in either sport business (MSSB), travel and tourism (MSTT) or hospitality management (MSHM).

Pathway to STHM Scholar Valez Maria Jackson (MSSB), who grew up just outside Philly in Yeadon, PA, graduated from Thomas Jefferson University, where she majored in communications and played basketball for the Rams. A member of the 2018–19 championship team of the Central Athletic Collegiate Conference (CACC), she was also a member of the CACC All-Academic Team (as a junior and senior) and earned Jefferson’s Achievement Award, the Dr. Don Flynn Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Award and the Division 2 Athletics Directors Association (D2 ADA) Academic Achievement Award.

“This scholarship is important because it represents a portion of my life that makes me unique and something I am able to be praised for,” says Jackson. “It celebrates the work I have done to make myself and the world a more inclusive and diverse place.

Inclusive Excellence Scholars Span Two of Our Master’s Programs

STHM has also designated two admitted students as “Inclusive Excellence” Scholars. ODEI selected the 2021 Inclusive Excellence Scholars for their ability to demonstrate leadership, personal commitment to DEI issues and contributions to advancing DEI efforts within their respective industry.

Inclusive Excellence Scholar and STHM Student Ambassador Stuart Cundiff III (MSSB), from Somerset NJ, earned a journalism degree from Lehigh University. He also played defensive back, helped recruit for the football program, was a sports media Intern and reported for The Brown and White student newspaper. A member of Kappa Alpha Psi, he was the campus relations chair for the Cultural Greek Council Cundiff, held a seat on the Leadership Council of the Student Athletes of Color and was active in the Lehigh Minority Business Alliance. He is a trained mentor of The Mentor Collective.

“Besides being extremely helpful with funding my education, this scholarship is important to me because as an undergrad at Lehigh I did a lot of work toward DEI efforts,” Cundiff says. “It’s nice to be recognized for what my classmates and I worked hard on—with no thought of compensation, but because we felt it was the right and necessary thing to do.”

Inclusive Excellence Scholar Haley Yax (MSTT) is a Certified Travel Industry Specialist (CTIS). A graduate of Central Michigan University, where she majored in communication and event management, she is an event manager for the Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau in Jersey City. Previously she was a marketing coordinator for the Chicago-based treasury management consultancy, group travel and special events coordinator for historic state park in Michigan, and a community assistant for a major student housing developer.

“Receiving the Inclusive Excellence Scholar Award means a great deal to me,” says Yax. “Through the pandemic I was unemployed, like many others, a new mom and the wife of an active-duty military member. I knew I wanted to join the Tourism and Hospitality graduate program at STHM, but funding was a huge hurdle to bettering myself for my family. This scholarship is allowing me to continue my education without the increased stress of financing my degree.”

An Exceptional International “Diversity in Leadership” Scholar

The school has named Juan Saybe (EMSSB) a “Diversity in Leadership” Scholar, an honor designated for a mid- to senior-level manager enrolled in the EMSSB program (as the degree requires). A Penn State alumnus, Saybe had a fascinating international career in sport management.

For two years Saybe has served as vice president of the Honduran Soccer Federation (FENAFUTH). Since 2002, he has also been a board member of the professional football Club Olimpia Deportivo—Honduras’s most successful team in international club competition as well as the country’s domestic league. Saybe is currently also general manager at the Spanish information technology company Conasa.

“In the sports industry I have been lucky to receive some awards, but none as important as this scholarship,” says Saybe. “To be able to contribute at my university to the necessary steps on our journey to a better society means the world to me. We must work together in embracing diversity— we are all so different, so unique, with such diverse tools and talents that there’s nothing we can’t do together.”

Saybe will have the opportunity to serve as a DEI champion within his cohort and play an essential role in educating his peers and advancing the sport industry on DEI issues. Both Saybe and the Inclusive Excellence Scholars are also invited to serve on the school’s DEI Committee.

“We’re proud and excited to prioritize these scholarships at this pivotal moment for STHM and higher education,” says Senior Associate Dean Jeremy Jordan. “While there is still much to be done, offering funding and pathways to graduate education helps to ease the financial burden for master’s-level applicants. This is a critical step increasing access to our graduate programs and helps STHM recruit and retain an even greater diversity of exceptional students.”

Looking Ahead to an Ever-Increasing Culture of Inclusivity

Two other scholarships will be awarded to (domestic) students who are applying as undergraduates to pursue a career in one of the school’s industries: the Diversity Advancement Scholarship (DAS), for first-year students from underrepresented groups, and the need-based Equitable Access Scholarship (EAS), for FGLI students.

In the coming years, ODEI will proudly report on all the many accomplishments of the distinguished students who earn these scholarships, just as it already has for first two students to receive ODEI internships, made possible through a generous grant from CIBER and other industry partners. Kyle Chin ’21 interned with the PA Recreation and Park Society Inc., and specifically on the many initiatives of their Inclusion Committee. Jessica Lachowicz ’21, worked with Tourism Diversity Matters, a new nonprofit designed to support tourism and hospitality industry needs related to DEI education, workforce development and research.

Kyle Chin

Kyle Chin ’21 was a sport and recreation management major and former ODEI intern. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

“We view these internships and scholarships as an essential part of how we train early career professionals to thrive in each of our industries,” says ODEI Co-Director Naima Hall, who is also Director of the Center for Industry Engagement. “We’re eager to improve the STHM experience and its scholarships in ways that benefit all students. It’s our responsibility to help each student emerge from our degree programs with the sophisticated training and cultural competency that employers demand in the modern workplace.”

The Office of ODEI invites current and prospective students to learn more about the scholarships and criteria through the individual applications.