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The HEaT is on

Clay Daughtrey reflects on what’s cooking at the recently launched School of Hospitality, Events and Tourism.

By Cory Phare

November 14, 2018

School of HEATOfficially launched Aug. 1, Metropolitan State University of Denver’s School of Hospitality, Events and Tourism fills a unique niche in Colorado. And with the recent hiring of Christian Hardigree, J.D., as founding dean, the move from department to school is elevating students into a promising employment landscape.

“The hospitality industry is in dire need of employees,” said Clay Daughtrey, who has served as interim department chair of the School of HEaT for the past year and a half. “We’re increasing the collaboration between industry, faculty members and students. And our designation as a school helps us elevate the program to capitalize on those relationships – we have real opportunity here.”

As evidence, he pointed out the more than 2,000 employees being sought by the forthcoming Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center, which already has a million rooms booked; and the University’s beer program, which has developed quite the heady buzz in the brewing industry.

It’s a need the University is poised to capitalize on. Of HEaT’s degree options, one has a named designation: the Rita and Navin Dimond hotel-management program, which equips students with real-world opportunities to work in the fast-paced industry; the school is actively looking to build this model out, Daughtrey said.

“Named programs show the commitment of industry leaders to our program,” he said. “There’s a real value there; they want to be involved and connected to MSU Denver.”

Further cementing the connection between the classroom and career, James Webb was recently hired as career advisor and business-development coordinator to work directly with students on placing them into the best-fitting internships and jobs.

“We’re looking to build out more interdisciplinary collaboration and connect with MSU Denver’s centralized resources,” Daughtrey said. “Also, (Webb) comes to us from our culinary food lab, so it was a perfect fit with someone who knows our program well.”

As for Daughtrey, the opportunity to lead the school to this point has been challenging and rewarding.

“It’s been an awesome experience as interim chair,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it, but it’ll be good to hand the reins over in December.”

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