The hospitality industry is very prevalent in fast-growing Idaho, with hotels, restaurants, entertainment complexes and sports facilities nearly everywhere in the state. Boise State University is embracing this growth with its new resort operations and hospitality management program.
Idaho has several resorts that are part of the hospitality industry, specifically when it relates to skiing and snowboarding. The most notable of these are the Brundage Mountain Resort in McCall and the Bogus Basin Mountain Resort in Boise. In fact, Idaho has 18 ski areas throughout the state.
According to Susan Saad, director of community and customer relations at Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain Resort led the charge among the Idaho Skier Association and reached out to the university to encourage this program’s creation.
“Each of the ski areas employs hundreds of individuals. Bogus Basin employs 500 seasonal employees in the winter, almost 100 in the summer, and we also have about 60 year-round employees,” Saad said. “So we were really excited about the possibility of a hospitality program beginning at Boise State that would help us find some great talent to attract to the area as employees, and the same goes true for our friends at Brundage, Sun Valley, [and] a range of other areas.”
Saad also expressed Bogus Basin’s excitement about the program and its possibility of creating a pipeline for trained employees to work at Idaho’s many resorts.
The architect of this new program is Kent Neupert, Ph.D., a professor in strategy and entrepreneurship and the chair of the Management Department within the College of Business and Economics (COBE).
Dr. Neupert previously spoke with Idaho Ed News about the program, where he briefly mentioned the inclusion of two possible pathways. These include a one-year resort operations and hospitality management certificate or a two-year bachelor’s in business administration and management with an emphasis in resort hospitality management.
After asking Neupert some questions about the specifics of the program and its inception, he confirmed that Idaho’s growing resort industry was the driving factor.
“[T]here has been a 40% year-over-year growth in ski trips to Brundage since the pandemic,” Neupert said. “Thus, the need for skilled workers that are trained in resort operations is extreme.”
The program is completely online, which will allow for more flexibility among students who are currently working at a resort or would have to intern at one for the program. However, Neupert doesn’t rule out the possibility of in-person or remote options in the future.
“We expect that as the program grows some of the classes will have the option of also being remote. And on-campus classes are a possibility in the future,” Neupert said.
Students would have the option to take their first two years of general education classes In-person, before finishing their last two years online while they participate in internships. Neupert mentioned Brundage Mountain, Tamarack Resort, and Bogus Basin as industry partners for internships, along with local hotels such as Hotel 43, Riverside, and The Grove.
In terms of what the program will actually be teaching, Neupert explained that business and people skills would be the foundation of the program.
“People skills such as leadership, motivation and customer service will provide the exposure of how to motivate people and lead them. Business experiences are essential for employees to develop the overall understanding about a company’s operations,” Neupert explained. “Courses in accounting, marketing, finance will help the students to develop concepts about business operations. This way, students will have the experience about the industry’s operation (front office, housekeeping, etc.) and also interact with the industry executives through their internship program ‘Live & Learn community’.”
Neupert also highlighted the Learn+Earn internship program, which allows for students to earn experience and get paid while working between one and three internships, and that some of the industry leaders in Idaho are planning to establish scholarships for the program.
Eric Kline, a supply chain and IT management major and a former ASBSU senator for COBE, believes the program will be good for fellow students and the university at large.
“I think it’s a great idea [for a] program that hopefully will be growing over the next few years,” Kline said. “BSU has been missing a program like this and it’s good to see some initial steps towards it.”
Kline also pointed out that this program would benefit the community’s tourist industry as well as the university.
“It should keep hospitality students interested in Idaho rather than going to other states for the program,” Kline said.