By: Katrina Floranza
With the talk of a possible Hospitality Program being a hot topic lately, President Joe Bertolino and Provost Kellie Bean have sent out an e-mail to all faculty to clear up any misunderstanding of the possible program.
“I communicated to faculty earlier this week with an apology,” says Dr. Joe.
As mentioned in last week’s article, it seemed as though some faculty were left in the dark when the hospitality program was advertised and brought up. “Kellie and I agree with the faculty that we made a mistake, for this we apologize. The program should not have been marketed in advance of the approval process,” Dr. Joe tells faculty, “Be assured that this will not happen again.”
According to Dr. Joe, they have “been talking about a hospitality program for probably over a year now.”
It started when Bill Stenger, CEO of Jay Peak Resort, had approached Dr. Joe and faculty. “He actually met with some of our faculty to talk about our curriculum and given the changes that are happening in the Northeast Kingdom and the investments that he and his investors had been making in the Northeast Kingdom, he talked a lot about how Lyndon State College could play a role in that and prepare our students for those possible jobs that would be coming up in the near future,” explains Dr. Joe.
Not only did the CEO of Jay Peak approach Dr. Joe, but so did the owner of Q Burke Mountain. “We received a request from Ary Quiros, who had articulated to us the desire to provide internship and employment opportunities to our students and that it would be helpful if Lyndon State College had a hospitality program,” Dr. Joe continues, “So, that led us to then have a conversation with the leadership of Johnson State, because Johnson State has a hospitality program.”
From there, the two colleges engaged in discussion more about the program and the potential partnership between the two colleges to work with Quiros and Stenger, if LSC did in fact end up developing a hospitality program in the future.
Johnson State may have been the only Vermont college to currently have a hospitality program, but Lyndon State College was not the only Vermont college to be approached for an idea of the hospitality program, “I know that Bill Stenger had originally approached Burlington College and one of the reasons for that is because public institutions tend to be bureaucratic. Burlington College is a private institution, so, I think the thought was that they can do it faster,” explains Dr. Joe, “Mr. Stenger was not convinced that the Vermont State Colleges could deliver such a program in a timely fashion without significant bureaucracy.”
“I reminded Bill that we’re right here in the backyard and we’re here in the Northeast Kingdom, so, I think we are a better fit,” Dr. Joe adds, “We need to reach out to folks over the summer and say, ‘we really need to get this in our publications, is there a fast track or is there another way we can do this?’”
Though the hospitality program was still an idea, Dr. Joe explains what the college was doing with it, “Simultaneously, the Academic Affairs team here started to collect some data to see if in fact there was a market for a hospitality program and if that made any sense to explore.”
Provost Bean then had the task of putting together an exploratory group to look at the possibility of putting together proposal. “And that’s where we are at right now,” says Dr. Joe.
Recently, the hospitality program was advertised on the Lyndon State website and that was what caused the most controversy over the nonexistent program. “That was a mistake on our part. The administration made a mistake,” admits Dr. Joe.
Why did it cause so much controversy? “It presumed that the program would have been approved and that’s not fair, it’s not respectful to the process and that not at all the intent,” Dr. Joe explains, “When Admissions and Academic Affairs decided to move forward with the marketing, they were doing so to be pro-active. I don’t think the intent at all was to circumvent anything, I think that they were looking strictly from an enrollment management and the financial challenges that we were facing. They were just trying to get it out there saying, ‘hey, you know, we might have this program, isn’t that exciting.’”
Dr. Joe tries to understand what happened from an admissions point of view, “There are two things to think about. One, we are facing some enrollment challenges and we do believe that this program would be helpful in our recruitment. Two, we are facing some significant deadline for publications in order for us to meet admissions recruitment season.”
“We have taken it down from the website and we are making some adjustments to the existing printed material without having to reprint them. We’ve had some conversations with the Faculty Federation and I think we resolved the issue and come to an agreement,” Dr. Joe says.
According to Dr. Joe, “The proposal is now sitting in the Mountain Rec. Department for their consideration.”
“I’m excited about the possibility, but if the faculty vote down, then I will respect that decision. I won’t override that,” concludes Dr. Joe.
Regardless if the hospitality program is approved by the faculty or not, Lyndon State College definitely has the resources to fund it.
Vermont received $891,679 in Northern Border Regional Commission funds under the Farm Bill. That amount was then dispersed into five grants. Governor Shumlin recommended these grants go to “targeted economic development and job creation by improving infrastructure and strengthening communities.”
On Thursday, September 18, Lyndon State College was awarded one of those five grants, amounting to $226, 739. The grant’s purpose is to go towards establishing the Hospitality Program.
“I would like to think that being awarded the grant adds credibility to the proposal, because what it says is that we have created this proposal and now we have the financial resources to back up such proposal,” comments Dr. Joe.
As Dr. Joe mentioned, the Hospitality Program is still just a proposal. Therefore, Lyndon State College had received a grant for a program that is still a proposal. However, that didn’t stop LSC from applying to the grant. “Well, first, obviously, you’re always applying for grants well in advance whenever the deadline is. Given the resources that we have here, that is not unusual and you never know what’s going to happen,” Dr. Joe explains.
Being a proposal, it means that faculty may vote no on passing the proposal and making it into a program. “If at the end of the day, the Faculty Assembly should decide not to support the Hospitality Program, what we would have to do is say, ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to the grant and give the money back,” says Dr. Joe.
“The grant money is contingent upon us, it’s soul purpose is creating a Hospitality Program. If we approve a program, we have money to fund it. If we don’t approve a program, we don’t lose anything,” Dr. Joe simply puts it.