HRIM department celebrates 25th anniversary, faculty discusses program’s beginnings
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 22:10
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management department at the university. The department, which is part of the Lerner College of Business and Economics, prepares business students to manage hotels, restaurants and casinos as well as other travel destinations in the tourism industry.
The HRIM department was originally created in 1988 under the leadership of former university president Edward Arthur Trabant and dean Alexander Doberenz, who envisioned a world-class hospitality program that readied students for a competitive industry.
Department Chair Sheryl Kline says they set out to hire professors who were known as both innovators and experts in the industry in order to educate the next generation of hoteliers and restaurant owners.
Kline says the founders of the department saw the importance in formally educating those in the hospitality industry, especially in a state like Delaware where tourism is the third-largest industry. Over the past two and half decades, more than 2,000 students have graduated from the program and have become general managers of hotels, country clubs and restaurants, Kline says.
HRIM professor Ali Poorani is an original member of the department. He says the founders set out to create a unit of the perfect size.
“[To] create a program that was large enough to lead but small enough to care,” Poorani says.
Poorani says he recalls the humble beginnings of the program. For his first few years as a professor, Poorani had his office in a trailer across from the Perkins Student Center. Early on, he says he was aware of the potential success and growing future the program could have at the university. Poorani said he and his colleagues took an active role in attempting to put the university’s program on the map, even if it meant professors physically driving the bus to get students to industry expositions.
“The program would be successful as students get great jobs and companies deliberately hire our students,” Poorani says.
Over the course of 25 years, much has changed for the program, especially with the help of additional funds. Today, the university’s HRIM program consistently ranks as one of the top-10 programs in the country.
HRIM has a master vision for the future of the program that includes many large-scale changes, like the eventual move to STAR campus, Kline says.
On the new campus, Kline says she hopes that administrative offices, classrooms, a new hotel and location for Vita Nova will enhance the student experience.
Kline says she hopes that when students graduate, they are prepared for the market.
“[Students] should be well prepared to realize their dreams and be well prepared to be a manager with a good company,” Kline says.
Sean Freeman is a HRIM major who knew that she wanted to be part of the program from her freshman year. She has been passionate about hotels her entire life and says she remembers going on vacation and never wanting to leave the hotel. She enrolled in the Delaware program because of the opportunities to study abroad.
“I chose UD’s HRIM program because it offered the ability to study abroad in Switzerland,” Freeman says. “I know that Switzerland has some of the best hotel schools in the world and I thought it was great I could still study in America but be able to get some Swiss experience as well.”
In Switzerland, Freeman got to work with German students and practice both cooking and serving skills. For her final exam, Freeman had to work several galas. She got to practice creating menus and working in a fine dining environment.
Kline says the success of the program is largely due to what is known as “Delaware Distinction.” She says there are two factors that set the HRIM program at the university apart from others—experiential learning and the affiliation with the business school.
Kline said students in the HRIM major can utilize both the Courtyard Marriott on Laird Campus and the student-run Vita Nova restaurant in the Trabant University Center as laboratories. The Courtyard is used as part of the lodging module and is where students can apply theory about lessons like revenue management and marketing and sales in an actual hotel, Kline says. As part of their classes, students work in the hotel and cater to guests’ needs and can have jobs, such as serving as front desk clerk or general manager, Kline says.
HRIM major Sean Freeman interned at the Courtyard to get hands-on experience in the hotel industry.
Freeman says, “At the Marriott, I’m basically doing a rotational internship. So I’ve been in housekeeping, front desk, night audit, restaurant and even manager on duty. It’s been great to see how a hotel works.”
Besides the hands-on learning experiences, the connection with the Lerner College of Business makes the university’s HRIM program distinct, Kline says. She says programs in analytics and business provide students with helpful lessons for future success in one of the largest industries. The connection with the business school also helps attract key employers such as Marriott, Starwood and Aramark.
Freeman believes so many companies recruiting on campus is the best part of the program.
“It feels like every week an employer is coming to campus and interviewing,” Freeman says. “I interned with Hyatt Hotels last summer, and I don’t know if I would’ve gotten that internship without the HRIM career fair.”
Elliott Jones is an HRIM major, who originally entered the university as a business management major. Jones decided to switch in the spring of his freshman year after realizing his passion for the service industry.
“HRIM was the perfect fit for me because I want to manage people when I get out of college, and I love the service industry,” Jones says.