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The Tiefel Project Completes Its First Year

In mid-April, the Providence Campus hosted the capstone event of JWU's first Tiefel Project. For the first time during this academic yearlong project, its participants, Tiefel Student Scholars and Tiefel Faculty Fellows from all four campuses, convened in-person and with the first Tiefel Industry Professional, Apoorva Gandhi, vice president for Multi-Cultural Affairs for Marriott International.

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If the name Tiefel rings a bell, that's because 15 years ago, William "Bill" Tiefel, '98 Hon., a hospitality industry icon and longtime Marriott executive, sponsored JWU's first endowed chair. Then, as now, Tiefel, a staunch advocate for higher education, championed the program that connected industry professionals with college students. Recently, he sought to strengthen the eponymous chair and deepen its scope in light of the rapidly evolving technologies, ever-increasing consumer demands, and critical global issues of the industry.

Responding to his challenge, a four-campus team explored pathways to transform the Tiefel Chair, a one-day event for students and faculty held independently at each campus. Their efforts resulted in The Tiefel Project, a comprehensive academic year endeavor that centers on a current issue affecting the hospitality industry. The theme for the 2018-19 Tiefel Project was "Diversity Issues in the Hospitality Industry."

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Tiefel Student Scholars and Tiefel Faculty Fellows, selected to represent each campus, explored the issue through problem-based research projects anchored to the theme while related materials and activities were embedded into the curriculum, providing all students and faculty with theme-related issues, concepts, and implications.

College of Hospitality Management Associate Professors Jane Boyland and Brenda Eckler represented JWU Providence as Tiefel Fellows.

Bringing a strong and relevant background, Marriott's Gandhi took the helm as the first Tiefel Industry Professional. Throughout the academic year, he consulted, via technology, with all four campus groups, sharing his real-world vantage point and lending insight to navigate the complexities of the topic.

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At a reception held on the eve of The Tiefel Showcase, the Tiefel Scholars, Fellows, and Industry Professional were recognized. The following day, Gandhi delivered a keynote address that was livestreamed from the Schneider Auditorium to all branch campuses. In summing up a meaningful measure of diversity in the hospitality industry, Gandhi noted, "It's not just being invited to the dance. It's being invited to dance."

The topic for the 2019-20 Tiefel Project will be "High-Touch – High Tech," and Janet Roller, vice president of C-X Innovation with Marriott International has been chosen to be the next Tiefel Industry Professional. JWU Providence College of Hospitality Management Associate Professors Douglas Stuchel and Nicholas Makris will be the Tiefel Fellows.

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