By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Katie Davin, CHSE, associate professor at Johnson & Wales University College of Hospitality Management, has been teaching hotel sales, marketing, and management classes for 24 years, but this year has brought new challenges. Still, she said, the excitement and optimism from students looking to enter the industry remains. Recently, Davin spoke with HSMAI about her experience teaching virtually, including how her students are coping with everything going on around them.
Are you back to teaching in person, or are you still teaching virtually?
For my classes, I’m still remote teaching, but the university does have some face-to-face classes.
How are your students responding to all that’s going on in the world?
They’ve been responding really well. I think they’ve been good sports throughout, especially considering that remote learning is not what they signed up for. My favorite thing about hospitality students is that they are up for anything and willing to try anything. If they have to take remote classes, they do it.
Everyone is beginning to feel better now that people are starting to travel again and hotels are reopening. College students in their early years are not too worried about the long term. Seniors are worried about finding a job after graduation, but things are starting to look up.
What do you tell your students who are worried about their future?
Don’t jump ship now, right when things are about to get great! If they need a job in a different industry now for experience and money, that’s fine, but they should not give up on the industry for good. When things are more normal again, we will have better safety, improved technology, and new ways of serving guests, as companies have ramped up their innovation throughout the pandemic. That’s all really good news and we need young people to manage that and continue to come up with new ideas.
What’s the best thing that students can do to prepare for a career in hospitality? Has any of that changed since the pandemic?
Of course, having a good hospitality education is important, but other than that, experience is the most important thing. Any kind of hospitality experience helps them figure out what it’s like to deal with guests and service, and to make someone’s day.
Any hospitality experience can lead to other opportunities; working at a restaurant or tourist attractions are both great ways to get that hospitality experience. We require them to do an internship in order to graduate, but we encourage them to work in hospitality to get more experience beyond that semester.
How have you had to adapt your teaching style for remote learning?
I really revamped my lessons, not the content but the delivery. I’ve had to be so much more creative engaging students remotely. If I’m in a room with them, I can see their faces and I can tell if I’m losing them or if they’re confused. Now I have to ask them to give me feedback, even if their cameras are on. If cameras are off, I have to specifically ask them to unmute or give me comments in a poll or chat. It’s an extra step, beyond just asking a question and seeing hands shoot up in the classroom or hearing a bunch of students all chime in at once. I’ve had to try a lot of new ways to get students actively involved in class.
How did you get started in the industry?
I started as a teenager washing dishes, then cooking and serving for a caterer. My mom remarked that I could go to college for hospitality, so I did! I studied hotel administration at Cornell, thinking I wanted a career in F&B. I started in catering services at Marriott in the Boston area, then got into sales. Eventually I decided I wanted to teach, and I went back to Cornell and got a master’s degree in hotel administration.
What’s your personal outlook for the future of hospitality?
I’m very optimistic. Everything is getting better, and it’s going to be okay. Hospitality is a wonderful industry to have a career in, and I keep telling my students that.