Hospitality management professor trains South American faculty

Since 2012, hospitality management professor Hubert “Bert” Van Hoof has spent a considerable amount time in South America mentoring university faculty who often have limited resources and little advanced education. Van Hoof has helped his colleagues to conceptualize and design studies, collect data, analyze findings, and write academic articles for peer-reviewed journals.

What started out as a one-year sabbatical as a Prometeo Scholar at the University of Cuenca-Ecuador, where Van Hoof was tasked with developing faculty members’ research skills and starting university initiatives, soon led to outreach efforts at several other universities in Ecuador and Argentina. Along the way, Van Hoof’s own graduate students at Penn State have become part of the process, gaining first-hand experiences with research and publishing in cross-cultural environments.

Under the guidance of Van Hoof, faculty members and graduate students at Ecuadorian and Argentinian universities and Penn State worked together, developing and honing skills, and ultimately publishing peer-reviewed articles in publications such as the Journal of Applied Social Psychology and The European Journal of Tourism, Hospitality and Recreation.

“For me, my role and responsibility as a full professor, especially toward the end of my career, is not to publish my own articles as a single author anymore; a full professor’s role is to guide others and take on a mentoring role,” Van Hoof said. “When you see the limited means available in other places as compared to what we have here at Penn State, this is something we as Penn Staters, and as the fortunate ones, should do more of.”

Historically, universities in Ecuador were teaching institutions. However, several years ago, those universities faced challenges when a new national law required research to be a major activity for higher education institutions, according to Mateo Estrella, professor and former dean of College of Tourism and Hospitality Management at the University of Cuenca.

This new landscape motivated Estrella to start a program to raise his faculty’s awareness about research and enhance their research skills.

Estrella came to Penn State in 2010 as a Humphrey Scholar and worked with Van Hoof on several projects. Afterward, he invited Van Hoof to the University of Cuenca as a Prometeo Scholar to develop research initiatives and train faculty members to become researchers. The Prometeo program is sponsored by Ecuador’s national government and brings foreign scholars to Ecuador to mentor university faculty in developing their research skills.

“The intention was to increase our research program and start small research projects from scratch, accompanying faculty members step-by-step through the research process, ending in papers published in national and international journals,” Estrella said. “This was a very important initiative and the results were very relevant for the faculty.”

Four years later, Van Hoof still serves as an adviser at the school and visits Ecuador twice a year.

Van Hoof teaching in South America

Hospitality management professor Bert Van Hoof was a Prometeo Scholar at the University of Cuenca-Ecuador, which is sponsored by Ecuador’s national government and brings foreign scholars to Ecuador to help university faculty develop their research skills.

Image: Courtesy of Bert Van Hoof

Through the collaboration, Estrella said his fellow faculty members have presented research at various national and international summits and published more than 20 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and several faculty members have found motivation to continue conducting research because of these positive results. 

Another result is a collaborative research group that consists of Penn State faculty and faculty at four universities in Ecuador: the University of Cuenca, the Catholic University Quito, the Central University Quito and the Polytechnic University of Guayaquil.

“I think the relations between Dr. Van Hoof and colleagues at the University of Cuenca started at the academic level, but at the same time we developed personal friendships that are very important for life and for finding motivation,” Estrella said.

Along the way, Van Hoof began similar work at two universities in Argentina after a chance meeting in Ecuador with Patricia Ercolani, professor of geography and tourism at Southern National University in Bahia Blanca, Argentina.

Ercolani said the collaboration has been particularly beneficial to her graduate students because it has helped them to be competitive nationally and internationally as they pursue careers in academic research.

“The presence of Dr. Van Hoof was essential,” Ercolani said. “His experience in the process of high-impact publications, especially in the English language, made a difference for students. He clarified the research and publication process for students and faculty at the Southern National University and the University of Mar del Plata, and we worked on publications in English together.”

Aileen Fan, assistant professor at Purdue University, recently earned her doctoral degree in hospitality management at Penn State. While at Penn State, she assisted Van Hoof with the international research collaboration.

“One of my research interests is cross-cultural study. My previous cross-cultural research mainly focused on the comparison between Asia, especially China where I am from, and the United States,” Fan said. “The collaboration with faculty in South America helped broaden my research domain. With the assistance of South American faculty, I have conducted several cross-cultural studies comparing behavioral differences between North American and South American consumers. Such collaboration helps me to enhance my research experience and expertise in cross-cultural issues.”

For Shi “Tracy” Xu, a hospitality management graduate student at Penn State, the collaboration with faculty members in South America gave her a leading role in four published peer-reviewed journal articles, three conference presentations, and several other projects at various stages of completion.  One of her papers received the Best Paper Award at the Southern Management Association's Conference, a subsidiary of the Academy of Management, which will be held in October.

“I am grateful to have worked with collaborators in South America through Dr. Van Hoof’s connections. It not only helps me in my academic career, but also benefits our collaborators in terms of their research agendas,” Xu said.

 

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Last Updated September 01, 2016