ASMSU Senate voted 17 to 1 in favor of a resolution to support the addition of a hospitality program to the Jake Jabs College of Business on Thursday, Nov. 19. The proposed program would add a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management through MSU and an associates degree in culinary arts through Gallatin College. The senate’s resolution voiced student support for the degree program, a movement which previously failed twice in faculty senate with a vote of 14 to 17 in the MSU Faculty Senate. Despite the unfavorable outcome among Faculty Senate, advocates for the program include President Waded Cruzado, who opened the ASMSU Senate meeting by expressing her support, Provost Martha Potvin, and Dean Kregg Aytes from the College of Business.
The ASMSU Senate meeting was attended by 13 individuals who spoke during public comment, 12 in favor of the addition and one opposed. Arguments for the program were that it would be a large asset to Montana’s growing tourism industry, allowing employers to hire MSU alumni rather than recruiting employees and interns from out of state. None of the universities in Montana currently have a 4-year hospitality degree option, requiring students interested in the field to leave the state and for employers to recruit primarily outside of Montana. According to Potvin, there are currently culinary programs at the University of Montana (UM)and Flathead Valley Community College, as well as a forestry and recreation management degree option at UM.
The initiative has already been backed by major tourism strongholds in Montana, including Big Sky and the Yellowstone Club. Additionally, business owners in Bozeman have voiced support. Roth Jordan and Sean Faris, managing partner and general manager respectively of Montana Ale Works, and Mike Hope, owner of the Rocking R Bar, all spoke during public comment, claiming that graduates from a hospitality degree program would be highly employable in their industry. Bob Hietala, dean of Gallatin College, stressed that as the demand for the hospitality degree is there, MSU should respond with this program. “When we listen to industry, it works,” he said.
For a new degree program to be offered, Cruzado must submit a proposal to the Board of Regents. This is usually done with faculty support, although it is not a requirement. The Board of Regents can then approve or deny the proposal. According to Potvin, if the proposal is made and goes through, the degree would be offered for the first time during fall 2017 or 2018.
According to ASMSU President Levi Birky, senate opinion was originally split as it was in faculty senate. However, after hearing so many arguments about how a hospitality program would benefit MSU students and Montana as a whole, attitudes of ASMSU Senators changed and the body voted to express its support.
The diverse array of individuals who offered public comment showed that this is an important topic for MSU and the Montana community alike. In a written statement, Aytes said, “I have seldom seen such broad community support for a new degree.” Cruzado advocated the importance to students as well as to the community. “This is our responsibility as the people’s university, to open doors of opportunity, not to close them,” she said