The ASU-Heber Springs Hospitality program has seen success after its reinvention last fall.
Last August, The Sun-Times featured a story on the reinvented hospitality program. At the time, Adjunct Professor Rusty Miller told us the 2-year-old hospitality program, which originally started with basic culinary classes had expanded its emphasis so students could branch off into the culinary or business aspects of the hospitality field. With the academic year over, we met with Miller, Chef Michael Tucker, and ASU Vice Chancellor Dr. Chris Boyett to bring us up to speed on the reinvention. Also present was Lynsey Ferrell of Guy, who we announced as the recipient of an academic scholarship from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation/Arkansas Tourism & Hospitality Education Foundation Co-branded Scholarship Program in June.
“When we last talked it was the first semester of the culinary side of the Hospitality degree,” said Miller. “We had eleven students the first semester of last year. Three were taking the classes for fun but eight were taking them as a career focus, including Lynsey.”
Because the food and beverage business experiences heavy demand, the program has aimed to ensure the students obtain a technical certificate. This is done by frontloading the cooking courses in the first two semesters so they will have that resource under their belt in case life changes prevent them from pursuing the degree further or they decide to slow down their pursuit of that degree.
“We have one guy who’s doing that,” said Miller. “He wants his technical certificate. He still wants to get his degree, but he wants to go to work and help pay for his degree. So now he can slow it down and take 6 hours a semester to get his degree. In the meantime, he can work to bring in money to help with that.”
Miller is seeing increased participation in the program with seven new people taking the Introduction to Hospitality course during this coming fall semester.
“One thing about the seven new people is that was only in June,” said Dr. Boyett. “We haven’t even made it to August yet. There is a lot of potential there since we haven’t had any orientations yet and that could possibly expand the number of those interested.”
During the spring semester, eighth graders from Pangburn visited ASU and were able to experience some of the offerings of the program. The children’s apparent excitement in hospitality showed Miller and others in the program interests that were developing at a young age.
“They make decisions they don’t quite comprehend in the eight grade,” said Boyett. “At the end of the day they make decisions that pretty much run the table for them in high school.”
Lynsey Ferrell is just one example of the success stories the Hospitality program is seeing. Ferrell is currently interning at TGI Fridays.
“I really enjoy baking, though I never had the experience to work with a lot of foods,” said Ferrell. “When I started doing that here, I got a little more interested in the field. I took an internship at TGI Fridays where there is a little more food and different ways of working in a restaurant.”
“I got a lot out of these classes,” continued Ferrell. “I knew all the basics, but in these classes you learn all these different terms and techniques that help you. When I got here and learned about all these different foods, I didn’t know they existed. I was the one in the class that picked the most complicated stuff because I didn’t know what any of it was and wanted to learn it.”
The program is now expanding their offering to include various world cuisines.
“With world cuisine there is a lot of work involved in tracking down the ingredients, planning, and preparation,” said Tucker. “This teaches them some valuable skills that go beyond just cooking. Especially since there is a lot of focus on expense and budgeting with these dishes.”
Miller, Tucker, and Boyett are excited about the prospects of the growing Hospitality program and the growing need for skilled hospitality workers in our area and beyond. If you have an interest, or even just questions, about the Hospitality program, call ASU-Heber Springs at 501-362-1296, or you can visit their website at www.asub.edu/heber-springs.