Assessing Readiness to Offer New Degree Programs



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10-21-08

Assessing Readiness to Offer New Degree Programs
Assessing Readiness to Offer New Degree Programs is a supplemental campus-based document that will

a) Inform the academic program development process and

b) Illustrate the unit’s readiness to offer the proposed degree program.
The proposing unit is expected to

a) Submit the assessing readiness document with the proposed program’s planning document and

b) Update the assessing readiness document as unit conditions change for submission with the proposed program’s request to establish.

Part One: Assessing Need for the Program




Units should provide detailed information regarding linkages to the strategic plan and the impact of the proposed program on other unit programs on the UNC-GA planning and establishing documents.

Need for the Program


  • What is the external need for the proposed program? Project the current and future need for graduates with this degree at the regional, state, and national levels.


There is ample external need for the proposed Master of Science in Sustainable Tourism (MS-ST). At no time in history has the demand for higher education degrees by employers been greater than it is today. This has resulted in a large increase in the number of students enrolling in master’s degree programs across the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of students pursuing master’s degrees is projected to increase by 9% over the next nine years; rising from 502,000 in 2004 to 556,000 in 2013. The demand for advanced degrees in tourism is no exception. In fact, tourism, the third largest retail industry in the United States, is increasing rapidly and in great need of well-trained and educated managers as well as competent researchers and educators.


Why focus on sustainable tourism? Tourism is a unique industry as it requires people to move to their destination rather than moving a product to the marketplace. It is arguably the largest industry in the World and has tremendous impact on the environment through its demand for, and use of, energy, water, and natural resources. Over the years, the growth of tourism has been powered mainly by fossil fuel which comes at an increasing environmental cost. This in turn threatens the long-term health of tourism businesses and pristine environments throughout the World.
On another front, climate variability and seasonality affects an often vulnerable tourism industry through its impact on business operations, community economies, and tourist travel behavior. Unfavorable climate conditions compel businesses to shorten traditional profit-making seasons, and in some cases raise prices or invest in alternative business activities to help cover economic losses. For example, prolonged periods of rainfall negatively influence tourist willingness to go whitewater rafting, camping, or golfing. And historically, below average snowpack and streamflows lowers revenue generated by snow and water-based recreation industries in comparison to wet years. Poor snowpack conditions in some years also increase operational expenses for snowmaking at ski resorts, contributing to increases in lift ticket prices.
Considering the impact that seasonal climate variability already has on tourism, projected impacts tied to rising temperatures threatens the long-term livelihood of many tourism industries across North Carolina and beyond. Local communities dependent upon tourism are impacted by climate variability and change both seasonally and annually and are challenged in their efforts to retain stable business activity and permanent residents throughout the year. Real estate, particularly vacation or second homes, has become an important factor in local economies over the past twenty years to the extent that local residents are increasingly pressured economically to move away from resort centers due to rising real estate prices in immediate surrounding areas. Arguably, the future of resort economies in the face of a highly variable climate might lie in high-dollar residential and retirement communities.
There is not a sector of the tourism industry today that is not embracing sustainable practices in an effort to save money, increase profits, or simply because it is in the best interests of the local, national and world environment. Such practices include management and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, reduction of solid waste and water consumption, wastewater management, conservation and management of energy, ecosystem and biodiversity conservation, land use planning and management, air quality protection, preservation of social norms and cultures and provision of economic benefits to local and indigenous communities, responsible purchasing and training and education in sustainability for employees and clients.
The University of North Carolina Tomorrow Commission notes in its draft summary of recommendations (p. 1) that the UNC should embrace sustainability as a core value, leverage its faculty research expertise to address critical environmental and energy issues, and increase community awareness of environmental and sustainability issues. The draft report goes on to note that the UNC should prepare its students for successful professional and personal lives in the 21st century equipping them with the tools they will need to adapt to the every-changing (sustainable) world.
Global tourism (both domestic and international) is a US $7.1 trillion industry and one of the largest and fastest growing employment markets internationally, employing over 231.2 million people worldwide. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism is projected to continue rapid growth and will likely realize a forecast of US $13.2 trillion industry impact by 2017, employing 262.2 million people. These increases mean there is a need for more, and better, educated managers in the tourism industry.
The U.S. tourism industry is one of America’s largest retail industries with an estimated $699.9 billion in total expenditures, employing 7.5 million people (Travel Industry Association of America). Recent surveys and forecasts confirm that tourism will continue to be one of the fastest growing industries within the United States. There is reason to expect by 2010, tourism expenditures in the U.S. will be over $700 billion and produce over 8 million jobs.
Nationally, North Carolina is ranked 6th behind California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania in person-trips, generating approximately $15.4 billion in expenditures annually with employment approaching 200,000 employees. The North Carolina Department of Commerce considers the tourism industry one of the most rapidly growing industries in the state and predictions infer that North Carolina’s tourism industry will grow faster than the national average.
With these numbers in mind, the tourism industry is receiving considerable attention at all levels. Tourism, for example, offers extremely large numbers of highly attractive career positions that require sophisticated conceptual and technical skills and/or managerial training and education. These career positions are attractive in two very different ways. First, they provide challenges equal to those in virtually any other industry. Second, the nature of tourism means that many of these careers are in very attractive physical settings and placed amongst people who generally like to see others enjoy life.
The current and future need for graduates with a MS-ST at the regional, state, and national levels is conclusive. Tourism is, by its very nature, a multidisciplinary phenomenon. Economic, psychological, societal, technological, legal, and political forces influence the tourism experience. The disciplines of management, psychology, economics, business, geography, recreation, hospitality, sociology, law, history, marketing, planning, policy, and the physical sciences are but a few of the disciplines that have a direct connection with the tourism industry. Sustainable tourism is absolutely critical today in contributing to a balanced and healthy economy by generating tourism-related jobs, revenues, and taxes but such tourism must protect and enhance a destination’s social, historical, cultural, built, and natural resources for the enjoyment of both residents and visitors. Currently, tourism-related companies and small businesses are incorporating new scientific technologies specific to energy, climate, water, and natural resources as well as government agencies at state and federal levels increase their awareness on sustainability in the tourism industry. At the federal level, the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and Bureau of Land Management, among others, now support personnel, initiatives, and offices dedicated to the implementation of sustainable measures within their products and services.

It is anticipated, therefore, that a positive market exists for graduate students with a Master of Science Degree in Sustainable Tourism (MS-ST) from East Carolina University (ECU). In a study completed for the Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Leisure Studies Curriculum Chairs Annual Meeting, 2005, the only enrollment showing a steadily rising tendency in the past five years among undergraduate students has been in the field of “Recreation, Tourism, and Parks”. (Please see Figure 1 at end of Part V.) Additionally, with the University of North Carolina’s several institutions of higher education offering undergraduate tourism-related courses, it is foreseeable that many will matriculate to ECU for this specialized graduate level program. Furthermore, many of the community colleges in North Carolina have travel, tourism, and hospitality programs increasing the demand for instructors holding graduate degrees. Due to the special emphasis on sustainability and the uniqueness of this degree program, there will be considerable national interest. Sustainable tourism, an area that ECU can take the lead in graduate education due to its many excellent resources, is critical to the success of any tourism economy at the local, state, domestic, or global level.


The “Who, What, and Why” we need MS-ST graduates from East Carolina University:


    1. Recent graduates from undergraduate programs who want to pursue careers in tourism management with a focus on sustainability;

    2. Students seeking a master’s degree program in tourism that offers in-depth knowledge regarding administration, management, and leadership in public and private (non-profit and for-profit) entities;

    3. Undergraduates enrolled in tourism programs in other states or internationally seeking broader opportunities in the tourism industry;

    4. Degreed instructors filling faculty positions within community colleges as well as college/university institutions;

    5. Well-qualified individuals to preside in lead positions in tourism-related enterprises, i.e., local tourism offices (every county in North Carolina has a tourism director or a person responsible for local tourism) and positions within the State of North Carolina;

    6. Professionals currently working in the tourism industry who want to advance and accelerate their careers;

    7. Persons seeking alternative careers either due to new interests or forced by the changing economic landscape in North Carolina;

    8. Individuals who are interested in transitioning from their current area of employment to tourism (i.e., corporate sector, non-profit associations, research, etc.);

    9. Researchers interested in expanding their knowledge about new topic areas and emphasis in tourism; and

    10. Entrepreneurs who are seeking to establish new businesses or services in the fast-growing tourism industry.




  • What are the expected enrollment patterns for the proposed program over the next five years; what is the enrollment target within five years of establishment? What evidence is there that the proposed program and this unit can attract quality students?


Students from a wide range of disciplines from within ECU, the state university system, and from universities throughout the country and internationally will be attracted to this program. These disciplines include recreation and leisure studies, hospitality management, environmental studies, various business disciplines, economics, geography, sociology, history, planning, and information technology.


Targeted enrollment within five years of establishment




1st year

full-time



2nd year

full-time



1st year

part-time



2nd year

part-time



3rd year

part-time



Yr 1

10

0

2

0

0

Yr 2

12

10

2

1

0

Yr 3

13

12

3

2

1

Yr 4

14

13

4

3

2

Yr 5

15

14

5

4

3

It is anticipated that first year enrollment will include 10 full-time students and 2-3 part-time students with increases of up to 2-3 students each year thereafter, capping at about 30 students in the full-time program and 12 in the part-time program.


There are several reasons to believe this new program will attract quality students. The program is unique and thus marketable as it is timely, interdisciplinary, addresses an important societal and global need, and will result in good job placement for graduates. Faculty members are already in place who are recognized as national and international tourism leaders. Several ECU students currently enrolled in above mentioned programs and recent graduates of ECU have expressed their interests in continuing their studies in the tourism field. They see the purpose of the MS-ST as beneficial to their goals and to North Carolina, as well as having national and international implications. Additionally, inquiries have been received from non-ECU graduates interested in a graduate-level tourism program as they have learned that ECU is exploring this option.

Comparison to Similar Programs in Other Universities

  • How common is this type of program nationally and what about the proposed program would enable it to particularly stand out from the others? What would it take to become a nationally recognized program in this area?


The proposed MS-ST at ECU shares no commonality with any other graduate program in the tourism field in the country due to its focus on sustainable tourism; nor does it share commonality with any of the University of North Carolina constituent institutions or in any in-state private institutions for the same reason. University of North Carolina - Greensboro and North Carolina State University have graduate tourism courses and programs but they are within parks and recreation degree offerings. North Carolina Central University’s degree is a master’s in business administration with a concentration in hospitality and services management. As such, they do not have the interdisciplinary breath of the degree proposed here or the clear focus on sustainable tourism. The closest university program with related courses to the proposed MS-ST is located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. at the International Institute of Tourism Studies in the School of Business and Public Management. The University of South Carolina at Columbia has a Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management program largely aimed toward resort and club management, tourism marketing, and hospitality education. The College of Charleston has a small Hospitality and Tourism Management program in its School of Business and Economics. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University has a large hospitality and tourism management program with a major focus on hotel administration and food service management. The School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at Temple University has a well-known Sport and Recreation Management graduate program and is currently building on a substantial program to confer a Master of Tourism and Hospitality Management. Florida International University has some tourism courses that relate to the proposed MS-ST but not a full graduate degree program. The University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Travel Industry Management curriculum contains a graduate tourism program as does The University of Central Florida but neither have a focus on sustainable tourism. While U.S. universities have been slow to recognize the significance of graduate programs in sustainable tourism, Europe and Australia have been moving in that direction. These programs may not specifically include “sustainable tourism” in all of the course titles but do contain an environmental focus. For example, the University of the Balearic Islands, Spain has a sustainable tourism related program titled: Master and PhD Program in Tourism and Environmental Economics.


As already mentioned, a graduate degree highlighting tourism development and management, most specifically sustainable tourism, is not currently a dedicated offering at any higher education institution within North Carolina. Eastern North Carolina and the State of North Carolina are good marketplaces for a sustainable tourism management program due to its proximity to, and linkages with, varied multitude sustainable tourism products. This degree will substantially increase exposure of current faculty’s scholarly strengths and attract top quality students as the MS-ST program matures into the growing realm of sustainable tourism, inclusive of rural tourism, tourism marketing, and tourism management. As mentioned previously, and because of a interdisciplinary approach to the MS-ST, faculty support is robust and their contribution for the most part can occur as an extension of current teaching and research interests.
ECU is in a unique position to take advantage of becoming a nationally recognized program due to the proposed degree structure’s concentration in sustainable tourism. There are more faculty members at ECU interested and engaged in sustainable tourism related courses than on any other campus in the UNC campuses. (Please see Figure 2 at end of Part V.) Perhaps the most exciting element of this concept is that its emphasis is in a relatively new field that is gaining state, national, and international attention. There is every reason to believe that a strong market exists for ECU graduate students and that ECU will quickly be recognized as a lead research and teaching institution in the field of sustainable tourism.

Accreditation Standards

  • Are there accreditation standards or requirements that will affect this program? Is so, describe in detail how the proposed program will meet those standards or requirements.


Currently there are no accreditation standards for a Master of Science in Sustainable Tourism degree as described herein at this time. However, because of current interests in such programs nationally and globally, it is conceivable that accreditation standards will be adopted in the future.





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