Students at the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management can now pursue doctoral studies. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved a doctorate in hospitality administration at the UH Hilton College to begin in fall 2015.
“Not having a Ph.D. program has been a shortcoming of our academic offerings,” said John Bowen, professor and dean of the college. “This will help ensure our national prominence going forward.”
The college will begin taking applications for the program in fall 2014.
The college offers a Bachelor of Science in hotel and restaurant management, a Master of Science in hospitality management, and a joint graduate degree with the UH C.T. Bauer College of Business.
The doctorate in hospitality administration will be a rigorous three- to four-year program with a core curriculum that focuses on the development of students’ research, leadership, teaching and grantsmanship skills. The degree can assist students in a variety of career paths, including academics or industry consultants.
“Just looking at the data for last year, there were about 40 students in the country who earned Ph.D.s in this discipline,” said Ki-Joon Back, professor and director of graduate programs for the college. “But there were 150 academic positions available. There is a need and our college has been working on this for a long time.”
In 2013, the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Education ranked the UH Hilton College’s graduate programs fourth among top hospitality programs in the country, partly because of the ratio of research faculty to students. This translated to more students presenting in conferences and attending professional meetings.
Back says the college began working on developing the doctoral program in 2006. In anticipation of this area of study, the college secured research faculty who are now ready to take Ph.D. students. Back expects top students from around the country to now make the Hilton College their top choice for doctoral studies.
“We are unique among the 15 Ph.D. programs in the country in that we have a great relationship with the industry. Many of the other programs in the country lack networking opportunities with industry and opportunities to create data about the industry,” Back said. “This is applied science. We create students who will be influential professionals in the industry. This will bring up our academic reputation, and it’s pretty high already.”