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Thursday, Jun 1, 2023

Hospitality By Degree at Cal Lutheran

California Lutheran University plans to offer a new degree in hotel and restaurant management, and the school consulted with local companies on the curriculum. Gerhard Apfelthaler, dean of the School of Management, spoke with the Business Journal while waiting in the parking lot at the corporate headquarters of Cheesecake Factory in Calabasas, where he was taking a meeting with the chain’s management. “Support from industry professionals eager to build a needed pipeline of high-quality talent for their businesses has been amazing,” Apfelthaler said. “They have helped us put together a top-notch program that will prepare students for leadership in this important and growing field.” Thousand Oaks-based Cal Lutheran will offer the bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and tourism in the fall. The program will prepare students for careers at hotels, cruises, restaurants, tourism organizations and assisted living centers. Apfelthaler said the school has spent two years working on the curriculum with an advisory board featuring more than 50 industry leaders from Walt Disney Co., AmaWaterways, Westlake Village Inn, Pleasant Holidays and Conejo Valley Tourism Improvement District. Apfelthaler rallied representatives from local restaurant chains, including Tom Holt, co-founder of the Ventura County born Urbane Café; Eric Andres, chief executive of the Moorpark-originated Wood Ranch; and Cali-Burger’s Rand Ferris, formerly chief operating officer at IHOP, owned by Glendale’s Dine Brands Global. The board also includes individuals with experience at Crystal Cruises, Santa Clarita-based Princess Cruises, Hilton, Residence Inn by Marriott Camarillo and Best Western Thousand Oaks. Advisory board members contributed more than $600,000 toward a professorship and scholarships. “When we opened our Thousand Oaks location (of Urbane Café), I was introduced to Gerhard and could see his passion for developing the hospitality program,” said Holt, who graduated from Cal Lutheran in kinesiology in 1995. “I started in the restaurant business with no true restaurant experience and could have avoided so many of my early mistakes.” Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village Director of Human Resources Jim Cathcart, who also serves as Cal Lutheran’s entrepreneur in residence, sees the degree as a bridge from the classroom to a career. “I am very excited about Cal Lutheran’s program, which balances industry-specific courses, experiential learning and the liberal arts,” Cathcart said in a statement. Despite a rise in area hotel development — with L.A. tourism reaching a record 48.3 million visitors in 2017, according to Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board — college-level training on the West Coast for the industry is scattershot at best, said Apfelthaler. Hospitality management and tourism will commence with 25 students a year, building out to 100 by year four. Freshman-year introductory course “Values Etiquette and Professional Standards” will reinforce the basics while another class focuses on navigating IT systems. Companies have already committed to lectures, internships, study abroad opportunities and senior year roundtables with executives from local to global. – Michael Aushenker

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.

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