Lachowicz Gains Hands-On DEI Experience with Tourism Diversity Matters
Like many students at the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM), Jessica Lachowicz ’21 completed her degree through gaining hands-on professional experience that was tailored to her interests. However, she was one of two STHM students who had internships last spring specifically devoted to the essential issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Through her work with the young organization Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM), Lachowicz aided the chamber of commerce of a major travel destination in the search process for a DEI officer.
TDM is a collaborative nonprofit that seeks to diversify the tourism and events industry through apprenticeships, workforce development, DEI training, and research and data. With the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) as one of its founding partners, the organization strives to “address the blind spots of ethnic disparities” by helping decision-makers develop strategies to engage and retain a diverse workforce.
The STHM relationship with TDM runs deep; Lachowicz worked directly with its Founder and Executive Director Greg DeShields, a former STHM professor who is also a highly respected individual in tourism and DEI initiatives in Philadelphia and the nation. Serving on the TDM board is Associate Professor Dr. Debra Blair, co-director of the school’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI), who also teaches a class at STHM focused on DEI in the sport and tourism industries.
“With the opening of ODEI in 2020, the Executive DEI internship program was the first time that STHM created designated opportunities for students within the DEI departments of our industry partners,” says Dr. Blair. “We focused specifically on offering our students the chance to learn how DEI practices are developed within and executed throughout organizations by working within the THM or sport and recreation management.”
From February to May, Lachowicz benefitted from hands-on experience in DEI consulting through a project TDM did for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, which was then looking to hire a Chief Diversity Officer. In addition to performing research, she conducted a number of interviews with Chamber staff members. Lachowicz was then part of the TDM team that presented their detailed findings to the Chamber.
“The internship showed me that this type of DEI work is the future,” says Lachowicz. “It’s already so fundamental and is quickly becoming a part of every successful organization. I’m seeing how all tourism and hospitality management students can benefit from learning about the strategy behind these initiatives.”
Lachowicz attributed her interest in DEI efforts to attending school on a diverse campus such as Temple and in the Philadelphia community. She found how meaningful it was that she found herself more and more interested in getting to know her neighbors and other community members of all backgrounds.
“Being in the Temple community made me want to learn more about what specifically I can do as an individual to help create the most inclusive environment possible,” says Lachowicz. “I was interested in exploring how I can give back.”
“As a result of this unique experience, Jessica is now poised to enter the industry at a time when there is value placed on her voice and presence,” Dr. Blair says. “She understands what could and should be happening in an organization related to their inclusive practices and can use this experience to help enact change when it is needed.”