Dr. Stephanie Hein

Five-star service starts with a better curriculum

When Dr. Stephanie Hein, head of the department of hospitality leadership, returned to Missouri State as professor, a fellow alum of the program had some essential advice for her.

“When I told him I was coming back to teach at Missouri State, he said to make sure that the students understand what the industry is really about, because it is a challenging industry,” said Hein.

Hein took this advice to heart and early on was interested in how to improve her own teaching and abilities in the classroom. In 2008, she began developing a program review process with her colleagues.

Improving service through industry

Dr. Stephanie Hein

Photo by Kevin White

In her article, “A Systematic Model for Program Evaluation and Curricular Transformation: A Tale from the Trenches,” Hein and her colleague, the late Carl Riegel, former professor, aimed to eliminate one of the biggest issues many programs face: curricular review.

“In the article, we discuss how we went about reviewing the program and implementing changes for improvement,” said Hein. “We also wanted to tie together what we thought was important to the curriculum with insight from industry. We felt industry input was an important piece of the process.”

“You have to be nimble to some extent and really pay attention to the demands. When I first started teaching, we had a heavy interest in support from the restaurant industry. That’s where a lot of our students went. Now, it’s shifted and it’s the servicing and lodging industry. You have to make sure that you know what’s going on in all these different segments.” — Dr. Stephanie Hein

The pair surveyed industry partners across the nation, totaling nearly 150 respondents. Their survey results provided a wealth of information that led to several more articles.

“We focused on what industry thought was important in the curriculum. There is a core body of knowledge that is commonly taught in hospitality programs across the country. We wanted to know the value industry placed on each content area that makes up that core,” said Hein. “That really is what spurred the process — making sure that what we are teaching in the classroom is relevant to what industry needs.”

They discovered that industry had five main areas of concern when hiring new employees: communication skills, ethical considerations, financial management, organizational/management theory and management of hospitality operations. Special attention was granted to these areas as the curriculum was reviewed and reworked, with an emphasis on communication, ethics and financial management.

Working together to build something better

After the article was published, the response was overwhelmingly positive. To date, it has been downloaded nearly 650 times and her presentations on the article often pack the house. It is setting the standard.

“There’s a need within academia to provide a systematic process for program review and development,” said Hein. “Because of my evaluation experience, I am often called upon to assist with external program reviews and accreditation visits at other universities. When I do an external evaluation, I focus on whether or not the program being evaluated is meeting the standards of what should be included in the curriculum, and often use our model as a guide.”

“There is this need and this curiosity of how to work this review process. I’ve given a lot of presentations at academic conferences and panel discussions, and sometimes you go in and there’s a few people in the room. With the piece on the program review, the room was packed, and we had so many people afterwards asking about this process.” — Dr. Stephanie Hein

The model has since been used to guide the hospitality leadership program itself and ensure students are receiving the highest-quality education possible. Hein believes this is reflected in the newly renovated Pummill Hall where the department is housed.

From the selection of the architects, to the design of the facility, to move in and opening day, Hein was there every step of the way and served as the project’s point person.

“The nature of the courses we teach required a more hands-on approach when it came to designing the facility,” said Hein. “I wanted to make sure the building appealed to our students. To ensure their input was captured, I held multiple focus groups to learn what was important to them.”

Collaboration was the cornerstone on which the renovations were built, and they were driven by three essential concepts that Hein kept in mind during the entire process: establish a positive learning environment, create a collaborative learning environment and enable students to be a partner in the teaching process.

“While the department made do with the resources they had previously, the newly renovated space is essential to the growth of the program,” said Kara Edwards, a student who assisted in crowdfunding efforts for the building renovations. “Students are now set up for success with not only the advanced technology, but also the space they are provided with. It was a truly rewarding experience to be a part of the crowdfunding efforts, and to see the difference it has already made in the quality of education the hospitality program is able to provide.”

All three components are reflected in the building: a stimulating color palette throughout the building creates a positive learning environment, tables instead of desks promote collaborative learning, and students being able to voice their wants and needs about the new renovations allowed them be a part of the teaching process.

“We knew we created a strong curriculum when we went through the program evaluation and transformation process. The facility now mirrors this quality and closes the loop,” said Hein. “With that being said, we are continually working to improve because if we don’t we will become obsolete. We will continue to make adjustments to ensure we are meeting both our students’ and industry’s needs.”

Hein continues to work on improving curriculum; she was recently appointed to the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA).

According to Hein, “The commission gives the final review and approval when programs go up for either initial accreditation or re-accreditation.”