Teach Locally, Think Globally: USF Sarasota-Manatee Launches International Student Certificate Program

Ya-Ting-HsuNine students from the Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism in Taiwan arrived in July to participate in a 10-month international student certificate program, as part of USFSM’s College of Hospitality and Technology. This inaugural, self-supporting program was designed by Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu, the dean of the College of Hospitality and Technology, and Dr. Keith Barron, a professor on the CHTL faculty.

The students, eight women and one man, are all 20 years old. Their areas of study in Taiwan include food and beverage management, leisure and tourism, and airline transportation service management. While here, they will attend a one-month orientation, and then take several courses during USFSM’s fall 2013 semester, followed by an optional five-month internship with a regional hospitality enterprise. During their first month, students will stay with host families and familiarize themselves with the area. When the students return to Taiwan, they will receive credit for their tenure from the Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism.

Ya-Ting Hsu, also known as Sharon, is one of the nine students in the program. She says that she was eager to sign up because, “It’s extremely important to broaden my horizons in this global and multicultural industry. This program is perfect for that and, an added plus is that I will be able to strengthen my English language skills.” Hsu, 20, is majoring in food and beverage management in Taiwan and loves to cook, read and play piano.

According to Dr. Cobanoglu, the program has a simple goal. “The hospitality industry is a global field. These students will help create a global classroom and the kind of cosmopolitan atmosphere our graduates will one day encounter in the hospitality industry. Our graduates might work in Taiwan, Switzerland or Argentina—or never leave Sarasota at all. Either way, they’ll encounter guests and clients from around the world. This program will give all our students a taste of what that’s like.”

The Taiwanese students, who were selected from the top of their class at the prestigious Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, will take four courses during their stay at USFSM, including a hospitality introductory class, event management, restaurant management, and finance and accounting management for the hospitality industry.

But not all lessons will take place on campus. Dr. Barron explains that the program will partner with a variety of area businesses and organizations, including convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, and hospitality industry leaders.

“During the next few months, we’ll partner with a host of hotels and restaurants, including the Sarasota Yacht Club and The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota,” says Dr. Barron. “Our students have acquired skills in the classroom. Now they’ll experience a test run of what they’ve learned in the real world of the hospitality industry.” He notes that the impact of this experience will go beyond applied lessons. “In the process, our student guests will forge personal and professional relationships that will last for decades,” he says.

The origin of this educational outreach is a story all its own. Dr. Cobanoglu was invited to speak as a keynote speaker at the Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism in 2012. Impressed with the school and its programs, he began a conversation with USFSM about the possibilities of starting an international certificate program. Over the period of a year and a half, he and Dr. Barron designed the program and got the buy-in from both universities. In December, Dr. Barron went to Taiwan to interview selected students. He sought out students who possessed excellent English language skills, a passion for the industry, and a desire to experience our region. Academic excellence goes without saying.

Dr. Barron adds that this class of nine is only the first class—and the first country from around the world to participate. “We’re already in conversation with a German institution for next year’s program,” he says. “Beyond that, we’re eager to engage universities in Latin America and elsewhere. After all, it’s a very big planet.”