SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 30, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee already hosts a Fulbright student, Nefike Günden, a Turkish-born scholarship recipient who’s pursuing a master’s degree at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership.
Now the campus is welcoming a Fulbright scholar: Dr. Rong-Da Liang of the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism in Taiwan, who arrived recently for a year-long study of marketing and tourism trends at theme parks.
“This is a great honor. I am very thankful,” said Dr. Liang, who also goes by “Austin,” a nickname he received as a teenager. “Very few are selected for the scholarship. I wasn’t going to apply for it but a friend encouraged me. I thought maybe I could apply and help my family.”
Arriving this past month, Dr. Liang, 39, plans to conduct his research at USFSM’s M3 Center for Hospitality Technology & Innovation. He is staying in St. Petersburg with his wife and two young children.
“My wife once worked at Disney World for six months and said Florida is a very good place and the weather is similar to Taiwan’s,” he said, explaining of his decision to study here.
Another reason is that USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership is renowned in Taiwan for its International Certificate Program.
Dr. Liang said he could have studied at a university chosen by the Fulbright program but knew he wanted to study here. He applied for the Fulbright award in August 2014 and was accepted into the program two months later.
Additionally, with 98.8 million visitors in 2014 (a record), Florida remains one of the world’s top tourism and travel destinations, according to the state’s tourism agency, Visit Florida. Tourism in Florida last year produced an $82 billion impact on the state’s economy.
“We are honored to have Dr. Liang as a Fulbright visiting scholar at USFSM,” Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone said. “He brings years of expertise and an impressive research record that will be an invaluable asset to our program. As we seek to expand our international studies program, we hope Dr. Liang will be the first of many international scholars who visit our campus and share their knowledge and skills with our faculty and students.”
Dr. James Curran, interim dean of USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, said he was impressed by Dr. Liang’s decision to study here.
“It is exciting to have someone with Dr. Liang’s talent come to work with us,” Dr. Curran said. “It’s a tribute to our college and faculty that he chose to come here over all of the other opportunities available to him as a Fulbright scholar. Having Austin here sharing his knowledge and perspectives with our students, our faculty and the M3 Center adds a valuable dimension to our college.”
Dr. Liang said that over the next year he’ll study the impact of brand integration within theme parks. His studies will examine the relationship between product branding and brand location, as well as the methodologies for marketing entertainment facilities and how marketing influences tourists’ decisions to visit those facilities.
Dr. Liang received his doctoral degree in business management from the National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan and his master’s degree in marketing and distribution management from the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism where he presides as an associate professor of leisure and recreation management.
Dr. Liang isn’t the first representative of the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism to be hosted by USFSM. In July, the campus welcomed 19 students including several from Dr. Liang’s home university as part of USFSM’s International Certificate Program.
The program was started in 2013 to broaden USFSM’s ties internationally. Since then, 21 Taiwanese students have participated, studying at the campus during the academic year and working in the area as interns. The Global Engagement Office coordinates the program in collaboration with USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership.
The Fulbright Program provides 8,000 grants yearly to allow U.S. students and scholars to study and conduct research abroad and for people of other countries to do the same here. It’s named for U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, who founded the program to increase understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.
To learn more about USFSM’s Global Engagement Office, visit http://usfsm.edu/global-engagement-office/.
To learn more about the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, visit http://usfsm.edu/chtl/.