CSUMB Magazine

Sustainability with a Smile

Monterey Bay is at the forefront of Sustainable Hospitality thanks to CSUMB

A few years ago the hospitality management concentration in the College of Business began a rebirth. It added one very important word to its name and mission: sustainable; thus becoming the only program of its kind in the country.

“I always knew that I wanted to go into hospitality and knew this was a great area,” says Emily Lewin, the assistant guest services manager at the Inn at Spanish Bay.

Lewin was finishing her time at CSUMB when a hard-nosed New Yorker, with a can-do attitude, stepped on campus to revamp the program. According to Executive Director John Avella, of the roughly 400 other hospitality programs nationwide, there is no other like the bachelors of science in Sustainable Hospitality Management at CSUMB. It is the first to integrate sustainability in every class geared toward the hospitality industry.

Given the Monterey Bay is literally in CSUMB’s backyard, it makes sense. “We need to be conscious of what we’re doing to preserve the planet so our grandkids have something left.”

Avella is in his 70s and has worked in the hospitality industry his entire life. He personally went knocking on local business leaders’ doors asking for support as he began to overhaul the program.

In fact Avella said, those business partnerships are the whole crux to making the vision, well, sustainable. Now more than 20 of the “movers and shakers” in Monterey Bay business make up a very active Advisory Council. “The essence of the program is to give our students hands-on experience. We want our pipeline to be fed directly into the Monterey Bay region. That’s where the internships are, that’s where the jobs are, and that’s where the money is.”

When she graduated, Lewin’s first job was waiting for her as a team leader in the Pebble Beach Company’s manager training program. She knows keeping a connection to CSUMB now is crucial to hiring great talent. Especially when it comes to eco- friendly policies, “I trust the students that are graduating are going to be successful. I trust that the professors are preparing them for the job.”

Avella says nationally, 60 percent of students who graduate with a hotel or restaurant degree leave the industry after two years. As a result, the Sustainable Hospitality Management students at CSUMB are required to work two or three events per semester and do an internship. “We’re becoming more vigilant about the kind of experience our students get in the summer. We want them to know the industry. Do they really want to do this? If so, they will already have great experience on their resume when they graduate.”

John Avella and Emily Lewin
John Avella, executive director of the Sustainable Hospitality Management Program, and Emily Lewin (BUS ’14).

One of Lewin’s internships was at L’Auberge Carmel. The boutique hotel had her doing everything from working the front desk, concierge, and valet to food and drink service. “It was a small hotel and we were expected to do a lot, which I loved because I was very hands on with everything,” she said.

Although the program is still in its infancy, those business partnerships and in-field experiences are already paying off. By the time they graduated, all eight students in the Spring 2016 class had job offers in the industry, some with multiple opportunities; Monterey Plaza Hotel created a special training program for one particular student.

With the help of the business community and seasoned industry experts at its helm, the Sustainable Hospitality Management Program is poised to not only last but also thrive.

In February, the College of Business and the Sustainable Hospitality Management Program held a first of its kind, one-day symposium on developing this budding industry. The Sustainable Hospitality Management Development Symposium brought the president of Costa Rica and several other industry leaders from Costa Rica and Monterey Bay to the InterContinental The Clement on Cannery Row.

The goal: to share ideas and grow eco-tourism responsibly with public-private partnerships and sustainable investment in the Monterey Bay region.

“Here’s this little university, 7,000 students…most universities connect with other universities, we’re connected with the president of Costa Rica,” Avella said.

College of Business Dean Shyam Kamath recently announced because of the success of the symposium, plans to launch an institute were fast-tracked.

“The Center for Sustainable Hospitality Management will provide advice to the hospitality, ecotourism and eco-recreation industry on the latest developments and trends in the hospitality industry, as well as conduct cutting-edge industry-based research…it will work closely with local, regional and national firms on consulting projects to help establish best practices in these areas,” said Kamath.

Brooke Holmquist being helped by a hotel doorman

More immediately, the Sustainable Hospitality Management Advisory Board is looking to create a mentorship program for undergraduate students. The beta test will start in April with about three student/mentor groups; Mentors will come from the advisory council, but the idea would be to expand outward to other local and regional businesses as the mentorship program grows. These relationships will center around things like coursework and practical advice.

“There’s nothing like building relationships,” says Avella as he thinks about the program in its second year of a five-year pilot status with approximately 65 degree-seeking students. “I want to see 500 students. I am 75 years old, but that doesn’t matter…I think I’ll still be going strong until at least 85.”

Now, being on the other side of things, Emily Lewin knows firsthand that vision is possible.

“It’s all about who you know in the industry…part of the reason students come to this area is for the scenery, hiking and extracurricular activities – but I think at the end of it, they want a good job, advance their career and find a place to work after graduation. And we can do that. Keeping a connection to CSUMB is so crucial to finding good employees.”