Q & A with Bjorn Hanson

In his new role as divisional dean of the New York University Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management, Bjorn Hanson plans to boost the school’s research offerings and reach out further to industry partners.

“The great thing about this job is that Lalia [Rach, current divisional dean and predecessor] has created something very special and successful,” Hanson told Hotel & Motel Management. “There will be no transformational kinds of changes.”

But that being said, Hanson has plenty of short- and long-term goals for his new position, and they do include time in front of the classroom. Here’s what Hanson had to say about his goals, which in addition to teaching, include lots of research, outreach and yes, fundraising.

H&MM: Tell us about your goals to produce more research out of the Tisch Center?

Hanson: We have so many full-time faculty and experienced adjunct faculty, so we can really start to generate some applied, scholarly research. Most of that will be done in conjunction with industry executives and other NYU faculty. For example, we would have a Tisch Center faculty member, a subject-level expert from another NYU department, then an industry executive, and the three will work together, supported by graduate research assistants, to generate scholarly research. This could happen in hospitality, tourism and sports management.

H&MM: What about your goals for strengthening industry partnerships, particularly in hospitality?

Hanson: We have so many industry relationships; I’d like to try to reinforce those by coordinating the organizations that provide our guest lecturers, adjunct faculty members, site visits, research and internships for students. Basically, I want to do a little more organization of the strong relationships we already have with the industry.

H&MM: Any other immediate goals?

Hanson: We can increase our student counts. We’re a large group already—260 undergrads—but I think … that number can grow. I want to make sure we can continue what Lalia was doing, and every year enhance the academic quality of the Tisch Center. We’ll never finish efforts to make the academic experience better and better. We’ve already talked about growing the staff of the Tisch Center.

H&MM: What about fundraising? How will that factor into your plans?

Hanson: We’ve always been modest in seeking development support, which is a nice word for fundraising. We’ll be moving next summer into our own building, and there will be naming opportunities. We’d like to see what interest there is in sponsoring research, and maybe even naming fellowships and scholarships.

H&MM: Will you continue to teach?

Hanson: I don’t think there will ever be a semester where I won’t have at least one class. Every fall semester I will teach a freshman course: Lodging Industry Structures and Strategies—it’s the first hospitality course freshmen take. Then the other course I plan on always teaching is the very last industry-oriented class seniors take. If I stay in this long enough, I’ll see the freshmen in their first class, and the same students in their very last class.

I’ll also be a guest lecturer in graduate courses. I plan on being very active in that regard.

H&MM: Finally, can you share some of your impressions coming out of this year’s NYU International Hospitality Investment Conference?

Hanson: It was exciting, especially compared to last year—the contrast between this positive optimism compared to recovery in past cycles. This time the industry is so happy about not getting worse, that it created optimism. Yes, RevPAR will decline again in 2010, but we’re celebrating that it’ll only decline a little. It’s interesting that we can be as optimistic as we are with such a modest outlook. But there is reason for that optimism, given that we have reached the inflection point. It’s just interesting by comparison to see what generates optimism now versus what generated optimism in past cycles.

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