Lydia Hanks had a tremendous experience at her first research-centered conference. A graduate student in hotel, restaurant, and institutional management (HRIM), Hanks presented two posters on her own research. “I received great feedback from other students and faculty from other schools,” she said. “This helped me to further clarify my research and how I can move forward.”
Hanks was among the 16 Penn State graduate students (14 studying HRIM and two studying recreation, park and tourism management) attending the 15th annual Graduate Student Research Conference in Hospitality and Tourism, held January 7 to 9, in Washington, D.C. Penn State students typically attend this conference annually. This year co-hosted by Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management and Virginia Tech’s Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the conference brings together students, researchers, industry representatives, faculty and scholars to network and learn about new trends in research.
“The conference provides our graduate students with an ideal opportunity to present their research in progress or completed, and to receive feedback from hospitality management faculty and their peers from around the country on their efforts,” said Hubert Van Hoof, director of the School of Hospitality Management. “It helps students build their professional network and provides faculty members and administrators with an opportunity to observe and talk to potential job candidates.”
Faculty and students from 34 universities worldwide attended the conference this year, from a diverse range of countries such as China, South Korea and New Zealand. This mix provided a multitude of perspectives on students’ research. “Many of the people who attend my presentation were doing similar types of research,” said Wan Yang, graduate student in HRIM. “Before the presentations, you only know what you’ve been thinking about, so getting that sort of feedback is a kind of a brainstorm.”
“In seeing others present, I was able to notice strengths and weaknesses in my own research,” said Pei-Jou Kuo, a graduate student in HRIM.
This feedback helps students refine their own research papers; many intend on publishing those papers in major academic journals. The conference’s emphasis on publishing was not limited to candid feedback from attendees, though. Representatives from several major hospitality and tourism journals presented a panel discussion on submission processes, acceptance rates and types of manuscripts sought by each journal.
Another highlight for many students was a presentation by several department heads, who discussed expectations and standards they had for junior faculty members in their respective departments. “This helped me prepare for my job search,” said Kuo, “because now I know more about what I need to do to be a successful junior faculty member.”
Other students enjoyed the fact that Penn State was co-hosting the conference. “It gave us a chance to represent ourselves and the university in a professional way,” said Chenya Wang, graduate student in HRIM.
“It was very encouraging to see how well our graduate students represented themselves and the School of Hospitality Management,” said Van Hoof. “Although my bias will show, our students stood head and shoulders above their peers from other institutions, a true testament to the education they receive from our graduate faculty.”