Industry pros say future is bright for Nebraska HRTM students

NIC Hotel
An architect's rendering of The Scarlet hotel under construction at Nebraska Innovation Campus.

Industry pros say future is bright for Nebraska HRTM students

11 Jan 2021     By Haley Apel

Strong industry support for the Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln will continue to create opportunities for its students and graduates.

Industry leaders acknowledge that 2020 was a challenging year for the world economy, but they remain highly optimistic about the future.

“The silver lining of 2020 is that the general public has recognized how intimately their lives are connected to hospitality and travel, which hopefully makes them appreciate it more,” said John Ricks, executive director of the Nebraska Tourism Commission. “Once things start to truly open up, there will be a boom in hiring and upward mobility is going to be greater than ever before.”

Ricks is one of 15 statewide industry experts who serve on the HRTM Advisory board, providing information, ideas and collaboration between program faculty, staff and students.

Offered through the College of Education and Human Sciences, the HRTM program will gain a major asset after The Scarlet Hotel opens on the Nebraska Innovation Campus in July. Privately owned, operated and managed, the new hotel will include academic space to be managed by the College of Education and Human Sciences, where students will be able to gain additional on-site, hands-on experiences.

“The industry support for our program and students before and during the pandemic has been tremendous,” said Shannon Rowen, HRTM program director. “We all understand the value of the hospitality and tourism industry to the local, national and global economy and to the desires of individuals to go to sporting events, concerts, dine out and to celebrate special events with their friends and family.”

In the United States, the hospitality industry represents 1 in every 10 jobs and over $1.6 trillion in economic output. It is the third largest revenue generator within the state of Nebraska and one of the largest industries in the world.

Nebraska’s HRTM program is internationally known for educating and growing hospitality professionals able to lead hospitality organizations anywhere in the world. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln began offering a major in hospitality, restaurant and tourism management in 2006, with the program growing out of a restaurant management option within the nutrition and health sciences major.

Students in the hospitality management major have six emphasis areas to choose from: tourism, event management, hotel management, club management, food and beverage management, and human resources. Students graduate with a bachelor of arts in hospitality management with an embedded leadership and communications minor. The program also recently announced the campuswide availability of its 18-hour hospitality minor and is currently involved in fundraising efforts to support program expansion for its new academic space.

Advisory board member Susan Madsen, who is general manager of the Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker Hotel, has hired many HRTM students and graduates for internships and full-time positions following graduation. She vouches for its commitment to the principles of excellence required in the hospitality industry.

“What I’ve seen from the students coming from this program is that they are very professional and passionate about the business,” she said. “Working in hospitality is really a great avenue to pursue when you have that passion for serving people.”

The Scarlet, a 154-room Marriott Tribute property located on the corner of Transformation Drive and 21st Street, will be the only hotel on Nebraska’s campus. Its high-end amenities will include a full-service restaurant, coffee shop, sandwich shop, fitness facility and rooftop bar. Its academic spaces will feature state-of-the-art classrooms, learning spaces and teaching labs. It also includes a full commercial teaching kitchen to support expanded culinary offerings for those studying the food and beverage management facet of the industry.

“The Scarlet Hotel will be an incredible advantage for the program,” said advisory board member Tom McKitterick, general manager of the Omaha Country Club. “Students will have the tremendous opportunity to practice their hospitality skills in a real-life setting.”

McKitterick is a 1986 alumnus of the restaurant management program that preceded the HRTM major.

According to McKitterick, there is no substitute for experiencing the day-to-day decision making required in the hospitality industry. Due to COVID-19, he has gone from making decisions to better the club to making decisions to protect its staff, members and the greater community.

“It’s an interesting time in the industry, no doubt,” he said. “Things are changing on a daily basis. It doesn’t change the fact that this is a strong industry and that the opportunities are endless.”

Visit the Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management program website to learn more or contact Rowen for more information.

College of Education and Human Sciences
Nutrition and Health Sciences
Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management