by Lauren Sigfusson
The hospitality and tourism program at Whatcom Community College has seen a recent boom over the years since it began in fall 2005.
“Hospitality is a great career for people who like to work with people,” said Greg Hansen, the program’s instructor and coordinator at Whatcom.
There are a variety of different careers involved in hospitality and tourism-“About anything you can imagine,” said Hansen with a chuckle. The program prepares students for careers in hotel, food service, meeting and event planning, cruise, and travel industries in a variety of ways.
Most community college hospitality and tourism programs are culinary programs. Only a few community colleges do management. “We’re very management oriented,” said Hansen. “The goal is to have students step out of class and into a management position.”
Students have the choice of taking 45-credits for a certificate, learning basic skills allowing them to start a career in hospitality or a 90-credit Associate of the Arts degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in hospitality and tourism. The 90-credit degree provides more opportunities to excel in the industry and it’s transferable to universities.
“If you aren’t really sure what you want to do you can get the certificate and work in the industry while you go to school,” said Hansen, who worked in hospitality while going to school. The best jobs are at night and are very accommodating for students, he said.
“One of the great things about hospitality is that it’s global,” said Hansen. With experience in the industry people can go anywhere in the world. Not only that, but students from all over the world come to Whatcom for this program.
In any given class, roughly one-third to one-half are international students, said Hansen. Students come from countries such as Egypt, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, Panama, Turkey, Korea, and Cameroon to study this program at Whatcom. The strong ties with the international program helped this program boom recently.
Uğur Doğu, a 24-year-old student from Turkey, is at Whatcom on a grant from the Northwest Community College Initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. He is completing the 45-credit certificate and wants to be a hotel manager because people will always want to travel and meet people from other cultures, he said.
“I will manage until I die,” Doğu said, adding that he has to return to Turkey for two years after he finishes the program, according to the grant’s stipulations. Once the two years are up, he wants to work in Spain, Italy and Germany someday, he said.
Students don’t have to be enrolled in the program to take hospitality and tourism courses. If you are interested in majoring in hospitality and tourism, there’s no application, just sign up for classes.
“It’s an always changing, always growing field,” Hansen said. “That has an incredible career potential for individuals that are willing to work hard and are looking for a little taste of adventure.”