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NMSU partners with Santa Fe Community College to offer hospitality degree

SANTA FE ? New Mexico State University is partnering with Santa Fe Community College to make it easier for northern New Mexico students to complete associate and bachelor?s degrees in the high-demand field of hotel and restaurant management. SFCC offers a certificate and an associate degree in hospitality and tourism management. Beginning this spring, students can easily transfer to pursue a bachelor?s degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management from NMSU at the Santa Fe Higher Education Center without leaving Santa Fe.

?Hospitality and tourism drive the economy all across New Mexico, and especially right here in Santa Fe,? said SFCC President Randy Grissom. ?Now, thanks to our partnership with NMSU, students can finish an associate degree at SFCC and go on for a bachelor?s here in Santa Fe. NMSU has an excellent reputation in this field, and we are proud to bring their expertise to local students.?

?Tourism is the second biggest industry in New Mexico and as such it provides many management opportunities for our graduates,? said Greg Blanch, NMSU?S interim director of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. ?We?re very pleased to be a partner with SFCC in this academic endeavor.?

NMSU offers the state?s only bachelor?s degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. The program is ranked among the top programs in the country.

?The mission of our land grant institution has always been to bring education to the citizens of New Mexico,? Blanch said. ?NMSU and the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management are pleased to have this opportunity to continue our mission in partnership with SFCC.?

According to recent U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, approximately 9,800 jobs in Santa Fe are in the leisure and hospitality industries. Salaries for positions at hotels, convention and visitors bureaus, destination management companies, tour companies and restaurants range from $35,000 to $90,000.

?This is very exciting news, since jobs continue to grow in this field,? said SFCC Hospitality and Tourism Program Coordinator Katherine Fox Ehlert, a veteran of the national hotel industry. ?After state government, the hospitality and leisure industry is the top employer in Santa Fe.?

Prior to joining SFCC, Fox Ehlert was the senior sales manager for the opening of Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder.

?I learned a lot from that experience,? she said. ?In the first year, most of the employees were hired from out of state, and there was an 80 percent turnover rate. They had difficulty finding people from the area with education in the hotel and tourism industry. SFCC?s program offers the education needed for management jobs in the industry, which also lowers recruiting costs for Santa Fe hotels.?

In addition to the associate degree, SFCC offers a certificate in hospitality and tourism geared toward helping students enter the profession or individuals in the profession wanting to upgrade credentials. SFCC?s associate degree program will further prepare students for management positions. An advisory committee comprised of the region?s top hotel managers will consult with students individually on readiness for management and will evaluate students participating in internships. Speakers for this fall?s SFCC Intro to Tourism class have included Rebecca Latham, secretary of the New Mexico Tourism Department; Ed Pulsifer, director of sales at La Fonda; and Rick Verunni, managing director of Bishop?s Lodge Resort & Spa.

Fox Ehlert notes Santa Fe not only has the allure of being a top travel destination, but also the assets for meetings and conventions. She spent many years as a corporate meeting planner. The past five years, she has been on the National Education Committee for the Professional Conference Managers Association. PCMA represents 6,500 meeting industry planners, hotels and universities throughout the globe.

For more information on SFCC?s Hospitality and Tourism program, contact Katherine Fox Ehlert at katherine.foxehlert@sfcc.edu or 505-428-1332.