The U of M’s Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management has put a new welcome
mat at its doorstep — one woven with the threads of success. Now, the School is poised
to become an international leader in its field.
When the Wilson School recruited hospitality education veteran Dr. Terry Umbreit a
year ago, it symbolized something more than just a new hire: it was also a fresh beginning
for the program that prepares students for management careers in hotels, resorts,
eating establishments, private clubs, cruise ships, theme parks and tourism organizations.
Umbreit has developed a masterly written strategic plan that includes hiring some
of the best faculty and administrators in the nation; upgrading the curriculum; developing
key partnerships with industry leaders such as IHG and Hilton; and improving scholarship
and internship opportunities. Students who cross that welcome mat are stepping into
a program that now competes with the elite schools in the nation.
“We have the capability to deliver a great education — that is the thing I am most
excited about,” says Umbreit, who was director of Washington State University’s hospitality
program for 24 years.
The School opened its doors in fall of 2002 after a $15 million gift from hotel industry
pioneer Kemmons Wilson. The School is located in the award-winning and full service
Holiday Inn on the U of M’s main campus. The sparkling facility includes 82 two-room
suites, restaurants and enough banquet space to accommodate 1,000 people. It has won
Holiday Inn’s top award for service six times, the Torchbearer Award.
Students who go through the program use the campus inn as a training ground, and they
receive a business degree from the Fogelman College of Business & Economics, something
that is a major plus, according to Umbreit.
“It prepares them for what you have to deal with in the hospitality industry,” he
says. “Students learn customer service, economics, statistics, management and marketing,
as well as understanding the owner’s position of finance and asset management.
“Graduates of business schools end up being very successful in chain organizations
and going out on their own and getting into ownership. The skill set they get permits
them to be successful in a variety of areas.”
Part of the allure of the Wilson School is getting to work in quality internships
at some of the best resorts in the nation. Two students spent their summer at the
prestigious Orange Lake Resort in Orlando (see story, page 4)
The student-to-faculty ratio is also a major selling point.
“When you have classes of 10 to 20 students versus 50 to 100, you have a really significant
advantage,” says Umbreit. “You get high quality instruction and individual attention.”
— by Greg Russell