Mattresses, menus and money

MU’s hotel and restaurant management program sees sharp increase in enrollment.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:25 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

MU’s hotel and restaurant management program is enjoying a boom in growth, and part of the credit belongs to new recruiting strategies and area businesses, advocates of the program say.

Sylvia Gaiko, director of undergraduate programs and industry relations, said undergraduate enrollment grew 31 percent this year — up from an 18 percent increase the year before.

The program — part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources — had 166 undergraduate students enrolled in the program two years ago. Last year, that number grew to 196. This year, enrollment jumped to 257.

James Groves, an associate professor of hotel and restaurant management, said one reason the enrollment has grown is of new facilities.

“We just moved into our new building with updated labs in 2000,” Groves said. “Before that, we had classes and labs scattered throughout the university — which made it hard for students.”

Groves said another reason he thinks the program is growing is because of internal transfers.

Gaiko said she has recruited students by meeting with advisers and letting them know what the hotel and restaurant management program has to offer.

She said that she thinks that it’s important to let advisers know what students can do within the program.

“(It) helps when a student comes to an arts and sciences adviser and says, ‘You know, I want to plan meetings,’ ” she said. “They (the advisers) know that we plan them here. We have classes that teach them how to do that.”

Cassandra Homeyer, a junior at MU, began college as a biology major. This semester, she changed her major again to hotel and restaurant management.

“I transferred this semester because I took HRM 40 (the introduction class), and I found it very interesting,” Homeyer said. “I never thought that I would be interested in this major, but we have had some guest speakers, and I have found that it is something that I want to do.”

The MU program is a four-year, management-based program, rather than a culinary-skills program. Students learn to manage hospitality operations.

“We have such a wonderful industry that has a great story to tell,” Gaiko said. “There are jobs out there, and they’re not flipping burgers. They’re management jobs, and that’s what we’re preparing the students to be is managers.”

Homeyer learned about the hotel and restaurant management program from her adviser.

“He recommended me to take HRM 40 as an elective to see if I would like it or not,” she said. “I work at Quinton’s Bar & Deli, and I told my adviser that I really enjoyed working in a bar. He suggested that I look into the program.”

Gaiko said one reason the program is growing so rapidly at MU is the support it gets from local hotels and restaurants.

“I’d say about 99 percent of our students actually work in the industry here in the local area,” she said.

Two of the four owners of Addison’s and Sophia’s restaurants, Brad Pippen and Jeremy Brown, are graduates of the MU program.

Pippen said he employs students in the program.

“It’s good for them because they get hands-on experience, and it’s good for us,” he said. “Because of their major, they develop a stronger sense of ownership and therefore work harder.”

The owner of Johnny’s Beanery, John Lane, also graduated from the MU program. He said at least five students who are in the program work at his restaurant.

Gaiko recognizes how great these MU graduates, and now business owners, are doing. “They’re young people who are successful,” she said. “They’re doing great in the industry.”

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