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Back to School! A student’s look at the Executive Masters in Hospitality and Tourism Leadership

By Angela Vickers - Posted on 13 September 2013

Billed as an opportunity for leaders in the sector to benefit from a part-time, modular degree which allows participants to remain in work while engaging in structured professional development, the Executive Masters in Hospitality and Tourism Leadership is a unique and exciting initiative created by three of the most well respected hospitality and business education providers. But what is it about this programme in particular that makes it so different?

On September 16th a one hour “taster session” will be hosted in Central London affording those interested in knowing more about the programme a chance to speak to both faculty members and students about what’s involved.

In advance of this session, En Passant Business in Hospitality spoke to Angela Vickers, Managing Director of Apex Hotels and current Executive Masters in Hospitality and Tourism Leadership programme participant. Angela speaks with first-hand knowledge about the course, its benefits, what she has learned and how taking part has benefited her both professionally and personally.

What prompted you to consider going “back to school”?

Various reasons…. I had looked at a ‘normal’ MBA program a few years back with the intention of doing further academic learning as it had been a long time since I attained my university degree and CA qualification and I wanted to ‘freshen’ my knowledge. However none of the offerings ‘hit the mark’ and excited me enough to delve back into further education. The Executive Masters program was different, it immediately attracted me because it was industry relevant and also incorporated three esteemed learning institutions namely Strathclyde University, Cornell University and Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. I was also a member of the International Leadership School Board, the body that pioneered this unique partnership between industry and academia and it was important for me to understand that the original vision and objectives we set out matched what was experienced on the program and met the development needs of future leaders of our industry.

What drew you to the Executive Masters at ILS?

The range and depth of the program modules and of course the opportunity to study at Cornell and Lausanne campus. The modules range from straightforward ‘Strategic Revenue Management’ and ‘International Marketing and Brand Development’ to the more stimulating and future gazing ‘Value Creation and Innovation’ and ‘Strategic Thinking for Corporate Venturing’. This is not a conventional Master’s program but one that is ground breaking in terms of its collaboration between industry and international academic partners led by an influential advisory council made up from world sector leaders thus ensuring relevancy and challenge.

How have you found/enjoyed the experience?

I have loved it, much to my surprise! It was definitely a daunting prospect but this quickly dissipated once I had the first few modules under my belt. You get caught up in the buzz of learning and the revelation that there is a place for theory and academic studies in addressing the key challenges of not just our industry today but in running our organisation. I always term it ‘the slow burn’. What you learn in a module on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you don’t immediately go into work on Monday and start doing everything differently but you will apply the concepts and models at a later stage as you encounter business challenges, they seem so much more easier to deal with and simpler to solve. One of my fellow students on the course terms it “thinking in the third dimension” which I think describes it brilliantly.
I am at the stage that I have completed all modules and I am currently researching my dissertation project however I have to be honest – I am missing the learning environment and the support of my fellow students!

How has the course benefitted you, personally and professionally?

I truly believe that this course is making industry leaders of the future, people who can set themselves apart from the crowd and are equipped in a unique way to face the dynamic pace of change in the sector. The course has benefitted me professionally by focussing more on the strategic nature of my role rather than the day to day running. To look further ahead and beyond the “tunnel vision” and to execute strategies rather than just creating them. Personally, it has made me more confident as a new leader but moreover exposed me to a global network of fellow students whom I can unreservedly call on for advice, support and idea sharing.

What advice would you give to anyone looking into doing something similar?

Do not hesitate or procrastinate, of course there is a lot going on in life and work and there is never a good time to embark on the commitment of a Masters program but it is manageable and the 12 modules fly past. The modules are spread out over 18 months and completion of the assignments is just down to good old fashioned discipline. It is an enjoyable journey, one which I would whole heartedly recommend and actually describe as a privilege to undertake.

What were the highlights of the course for you?

Definitely the Cornell and Lausanne Campus! Spending winter in New York and spring in Switzerland was really incredible – it was an electric combination of fun and International learning. As inaugural Masters students, we also arranged several events with undergraduate hospitality students and it was refreshing to hear what they are excited about in our industry, how they see their careers shaping up and what we need to do as future employers to engage and attract them. Other highlights included meeting iconic industry (and non-industry) leaders who delivered keynote speeches to our small student audience, these included Sir David Michels, Guy Crawford and Lawrence Geller.

On the evening of Monday 16th September the International Leadership School will host a one hour “taster session” with Peter Lederer CBE, in London, for those wanting to know more about the programme. For further information and to confirm your attendance, visit the Strathclyde Business School website. 

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A version of this article was originally published on En Passant online

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