Texas Tech’s Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management Program Kicks Off First Student Cohort in Costa Rica Campus
Hospitality and Tourism Educational Program Expands International Relationships
After many years of preparation, the Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management (RHIM) program in the College of Human Sciences opened its doors in the new Costa Rica Texas Tech University (TTU-CR) campus.
The Texas Tech University program utilizes the basement and floors one through three as it opens. From the campus building, one is able to see a scenic view of the Costa Rica mountains. The RHIM program can largely be found on the third floor of the building which is filled with state-of-the-art kitchen labs, dining space, classrooms, and lounge areas.
Classrooms are designed to be flexible with all chairs and tables on wheels so that they are completely mobile. The walls are composed of sliding whiteboards, allowing a functional space to fulfill student needs. Extending its service to students, the facilities are working towards ADA compliance, with one of the program's first students requiring a wheelchair.
The campus sits in an exclusive part of San Jose, known as Avenida Escazú, an area that Dr. Jones describes as a suburban setting. The area hosts residential space, topnotch shops, restaurants, hotels, and an IMAX theatre for the movie-loving student or tourist.
"To have a hospitality program that is in the middle of all of that is nothing short of spectacular," Hospitality and Retail Management Chairperson, Robert Paul Jones, Ph.D., said. "The facility is nothing but state-of-the-art. It has more technology than you can possibly imagine."
The campus is equipped to simulcast using three cameras for the instructor chef station. The feed from those cameras can not only broadcast throughout the kitchen but also to the entire building in Costa Rica, and to Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
"We have a huge advantage in that Costa Rica is in the same time zone as we are. It is very easy for us to set up synchronous classrooms between Costa Rica and here. So we can leverage faculty in either location towards what we are doing," Dr. Jones said.
RHIM Associate Professor Shane Blum, Ph.D. recalls the countless hours spent with Dean Linda Hoover, Ph.D., Professor of Practice Garvin O'Neil, and Dr. Jones preparing for an international hospitality program.
"RHIM has been involved for about the past 5 years working on the curriculum and design of the kitchen laboratories, production kitchen, and restaurant," Dr. Blum said. "We recently hired the first faculty member for the RHIM program at TTU-CR. Gonzalo Alfaro moved to San Jose a few weeks ago and is ready to start teaching our Introduction to Hospitality Management course to the first cohort of students."
The Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management program is gearing up for enriching the local community through sustainability efforts and building upon the relationships between Texas Tech and Costa Rica.
"You know one of the most exciting things about the program from my perspective is they do things differently in Costa Rica and we can learn from that and bring it here," Dr. Jones said. "Costa Rica is very sustainable oriented. 360 out of 365 days of the year they are running on renewable resources whether that is through solar, wind, or geothermal energy."
The campus building is soon to gain a certified LEED platinum designation. Dr. Jones looks forward to incorporating this sustainability into the program curriculum.
"It's a great opportunity to go somewhere and be the student as well as the teacher," Dr. Jones said.
Something the Hospitality and Retail Management department has noticed in their time in Costa Rica is the great respect that the culture has for Texas Tech and what the university brings to the table.
"They are very interested in how we can help develop their workforce and how we can help make better managers," Dr. Jones explains. "For a country that is really dedicated to tourism and hospitality that is a great thing to see happening."
To further the international partnership, the department is developing an event program to present to Costa Rica and the industry in hopes of generating student interest. There are ideas for introducing the legend of Texas barbeque, inviting local food professionals, and even hosting wine pairings to accompany the country's top exports in conjunction with the Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute.
"It'll be a great way to demonstrate the great things in Costa Rica and make sure that we demonstrate that we want to be a part of what they have going on in the community. We want to learn from them and they can hopefully learn from us."
The unique cultural experiences present the department with the opportunity to set themselves apart among students.
"Having access to students who are already experiencing the Latin American culture while having a U.S. style education is beyond what we could have hoped for. We have just scratched the surface of what could happen."