ICHRIE's Best Value: What networking did for me
A constant theme that has emerged from our many surveys of members over the years is that of the value of networking that we can do at our international and regional conferences. When I have read such results, it has always rung true for me. I’m very thankful for the fruit of my networking, as it generated so many unexpected and valuable outcomes.
While I joined ICHRIE in 1995, I went to my first ICHRIE conference in Providence, Rhode Island in 1997. As probably true for many, it was an overwhelming experience. There were so many interesting presentations and I couldn’t go to enough of them. The large group events, such as the plenary sessions and the meals, revealed to me the vibrant and engaging community of which I had joined. What stuck in my mind afterward was how happy and interactive people were with one another. I had attended an Academy of Management conference a few years previous to this one and there was nowhere the spirit of camaraderie that I was witnessing in Providence. It made me want to return the following year and I haven’t missed an international conference since. The friendships and related growth continue to be rewarding.
The following year I went with a mission in mind. I had accepted a teaching assignment of a new casino management course. I was interested in it because of the explosive growth of that industry in the late 1990s. It just made sense that we add an elective in our curriculum to match the industry phenomena. But where to begin? I purposely searched the upcoming summer’s program to find anyone presenting either a research or a teaching session related to casinos. I wanted to find a colleague who could help get me started. And I did! Sheryl Kline, at that time with Widener University (Chester, PA) and now at the University of Delaware, was making a casino presentation and I eagerly attended. Afterward, I shared my interest and need with Sheryl. She was immediately receptive to helping me and agreed to share teaching resources. I also met Kathryn Hashimoto (then at the University of New Orleans; now retired from East Carolina University), another casino expert. Between the two of them, I received amazing support and was well on my way to teaching and researching in the gaming industry.
As I learned more about ICHRIE, I became aware of the opportunities to serve via the many committees. I asked to join the Symposium Committee, which was then chaired by Reginald Foucar-Szocki of James Madison University. Reg quickly took me under his wing, explaining how committees operated and how I could become actively engaged. He opened a door for me that has led to many new opportunities. It was that easy.
A couple of years later, and now having attended a number of conferences and met many new peers from other institutions, I saw a call for new editors of the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Education. My UMass colleague, Linda Shea, and I discussed this opportunity and felt that it matched our research streams of hospitality education so we elected to apply. Fortune smiled on us and we were chosen for the role. Working with outgoing editor Bob Woods (UNLV), we further expanded our networks through our interaction with the many authors who publish in JHTE.
That led to committee involvement in the Publications and Information Council (which is now the Research Committee) and eventually running for the director position of that council. While I did not win that initial attempt, I ran again later and was successful. It just showed to me once again that the more I became involved in ICHRIE and expanded my network of colleagues, the more opportunities I would have to make my professional career interesting and dynamic. That experience later led to becoming secretary of the ICHRIE board for four years and now, ICHRIE President. It’s not a journey I would have ever predicted. But it is all fruit of my networking within ICHRIE. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for anything else. The value I’ve gained through my networking has enabled me to develop a rich and rewarding career. I extend my thanks to everyone throughout ICHRIE (especially the many, many colleagues that I couldn’t find the space to mention here) for helping to make this happen. In closing, I encourage all members, new and old, to use the networking opportunities at our conferences to expand your friendships, to gain insights and tips to advance your work, and to find opportunities to give back to others through service in the organization. It’s incredible what treasures and rewards could lay ahead for you.