Jared Kilkenny – Special to the Southern News
Approaching her junior year with an undecided major and out-of-state tuition to be paid, SCSU student, Kirby Pallis was running out of options. Now, with planned graduation in May, what started as strategy to lower her tuition rate became the discovery of a new passion and an education she said was “totally worth it.”
Pallis plans to graduate with a major in Travel and Tourism, a degree concentration through Southern’s Recreation and Leisure department. According to the SCSU website, students in the concentration acquire the event planning, leadership, promotion and management skills necessary for a career in the travel and tourism industry.
“I definitely stumbled upon it totally by accident, said Pallis. “I’m from Massachusetts and I came to Southern not knowing what major I wanted. Finally, I discovered I could major in the recreation department and get in state tuition because it is not offered in Massachusetts.”
According to Pallis, as with majors in which she had previously enrolled in other departments, the available recreation concentrations did not peak her interest. After considering all other possibilities there was one recreation major left to consider—travel and tourism.
“I researched it a little bit and thought (travel and tourism) sounded pretty cool,” said Pallis. “Then I took a travel and tourism class and thought that it was awesome. It’s really exciting, really fun, and there are a lot of opportunities.”
According to the SCSU website, travel and tourism, a thriving industry, employs over 64,000 people in the state of Connecticut and is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. According to the SCSU Factbook, there are less than 25 declared travel and tourism students at Southern.
“Travel and tourism is such a huge industry and it’s pretty awesome in that way,” said Jan Jones, an associate professor in the department of Recreation and Leisure Studies and the advisor for the travel and tourism management concentration. “A lot of the students that gravitate to our program are interested in event planning, event management, and those aspects of it. But we also have a lot of flexibility in our program.”
Jones, who also teaches the major’s core courses and has been developing the program for the entirety of her six-year tenure at Southern, said she hopes to provide students a review of the whole industry. Transportation, people, tourism management – these are the key aspects covered in her curriculum. She will also help those students get specialized skills from classes in other departments.
According to Jones, students with interest in the business or marketing side of the industry will be required to take business courses as part of their curriculum. Similar scenarios can be created for those looking to explore travel writing. Those students will be recommended to take journalism and communications courses.
According to Jones, in core classes such as Travel and Tourism Principles, students learn about the history of tourism while exploring the specifics of how the industry makes money. She then helps students explore different careers and options by encouraging them to look into different aspects of the industry. Special projects also allow students to show their creativity while exploring the travel and tourism from a local standpoint.
“We did a group project where we had to come up with a weekend getaway for a couple for Valentine’s Day,” said Pallis. “The trick was, they had to stay in Connecticut and they had a budget. It turned out to be really fun.”
Jones also hopes to broaden the career possibilities of what can be done with a travel and tourism degree by bringing in guest speakers that have developed careers in the industry. Jones regularly enlists Ashley Hyde, a Connecticut native and founder and CEO of Touch The Road, a Jamaican travel and tourism company focused on using the Jamaican tourism product to bring aid back to local economy in Kingston, Jamaica.
“The students are pretty much blown away by the idea that they can go out as an entrepreneur in this huge industry and start a little niche market,” said Hyde. “My message in travel in tourism is that it’s entrepreneurial all around.”
Hyde was also brought projects with her on her visits to Jones’s classes giving students the opportunity to understand how tourism and travel can affect different areas with Jamaica as an exhibit.
“Tourism and travel brings in over two billion dollars annually to Jamaica,” said Hyde. “And yet, the poverty line is absurd over here. (My company and I) decided that we were going to map the tourism product and we were going to provide that to travelers. This way, they can get the most authentic experience that they would ever get on the island and we can make sure that all of the tourism dollars that are brought in through their trip are spent in the local economy.”
According to Hyde, the possibility of travel and tourism majors travelling to Jamaica to do some intern work with her company is not far from a reality.
“We do want to get the students to come out here and continue to help us facilitate research on the area. That’s basically the next step. Hopefully we’ll have Southern Connecticut students in Jamaica every year.
According to Jones, Southern’s travel and tourism major will continue to develop unique opportunities for declared majors along with current scheduled trips to destinations through Connecticut, the United Nations, and various internship opportunities.
“I’m so glad I found (the major) because I love it,” said Pallis. “People make fun of recreation all the time but it’s actually a great industry where you can have a successful career and you can have a lot of fun while you’re doing it.”