OPINION: USC should consider a hospitality program

Yasmin Davis/Daily Trojan

Before its renaming, most students had no idea that the USC Hotel was owned and operated by the University. While the name change is primarily a cosmetic fix for the auxiliary hotel operation, it serves an important purpose: raising awareness of USC’s involvement in the hospitality industry.

In 2015 and 2017, USC’s hotel management team won multiple awards from the international Radisson group for its guest satisfaction and performance rates, illustrating its prowess as a successful, well-run venue.

Beyond the hotel, USC Hospitality operates over 30 dining locations between the University Park and Health Sciences campuses and has over 900 staff members, making it one of the largest employers at the University.

With such robust hospitality offerings, USC now has a unique opportunity to expand in a field it has explored little of. The University should build an innovative educational hospitality program integrated with USC Hospitality and the USC Hotel to give students business-minded tools for success.

The Marshall School of Business currently has two meager offerings in the restaurant management field: a four-day Food Industry Executive seminar and a 15-week Food Industry Management program. Both are designed for individuals who already have food industry management experience. Marshall should expand these offerings to the hospitality field beyond food by creating a major program for undergraduates interested in hospitality management. Hotel administration and hospitality programs at colleges like Cal Poly Pomona and Cornell University have proven largely successful and attract hundreds of undergraduate students yearly.

By following suit, USC could attract more prospective students interested in the hospitality industry and make a name for itself as a leader in hospitality education in the greater Los Angeles area. Currently, only two Southern California schools — Cal Poly and San Diego State University — rank in College Factual’s top 50 hospitality programs nationwide.

While both Cornell and Cal Poly have separate schools for their hospitality programs, USC’s Marshall School of Business provides a formidable foundation on which to build a new management program. Many of Marshall’s existing courses and core skills could conceivably apply to a hospitality program; for example, the business administration courses “Operations Management” and “Strategic Management” provide general business management skills that translate easily to the hospitality industry.

And by working with USC Hospitality, Marshall could establish the framework for a successful program without having to hire many new professors or administrators.

Furthermore, USC’s location makes it especially suitable for a hotel management program. L.A. is a travel, entertainment and business hub. Each year, the city sees over 45 million tourists in addition to the countless others who visit for business purposes. Tourism drives both L.A.’s food service and hotel management industries.

USC has highly acclaimed programs in film and media, which thrive off their relationships with the city’s well-established media industry. A hospitality program at USC could — and should — do the same.

USC Hospitality and the USC Hotel would also provide a training ground for students to gain hands-on experience in the field. The Daily Trojan reported earlier this week that the hotel may hire students interested in the hospitality industry, according to USC Hotel Executive Director Dirk De Jong. With an educational program dedicated to the industry, students could not only learn, but put their skills into practice. The valuable experience they’d gain through USC Hospitality would make these students highly desirable candidates for L.A.’s hospitality industry and beyond.

A university does best when it uses its resources both to educate and provide a service — most research programs reveal innovative findings about the world around us, but also serve as teaching opportunities for students who work on that research. To do so, USC should create a hospitality management program that would push the University forward in a new direction.