When UNT begins offering a master’s degree in international sustainable tourism in the fall, it will be the first such degree of its kind in the U.S.
The new master's degree in UNT’s School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management will educate students for management and leadership positions in this specialty as the university’s first joint international graduate degree. Students will spend one year of study at UNT and one year of study in Costa Rica.
Recently approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the master of science degree with a major in international sustainable tourism will provide students with 36 hours of coursework at both the UNT campus and CATIE, an international higher education, research and development center in Turrialba, Costa Rica.
The degree program will begin in fall 2010 and competitive scholarships are available. Students are strongly encouraged to apply for the program and scholarships by July 1.
The students will spend the first year of the program at UNT, completing courses in sustainable tourism and hospitality operations taught in the hospitality management program. They also will take courses in environmental impact assessment and environmental ethics.
The students will complete their second year at CATIE. Their courses, including natural resource management and environmental policies, will be taught in English. During students’ second year, they also will spend a final semester on a capstone Field/Practical/Professional Experience with Research and complete a comprehensive examination.
Travel and tourism is the second-largest services export industry in the U.S. and is one of the nation's largest employers. Sustainable tourism is based on tourism development that strives to meet the needs of the present tourism market without compromising the resources of future generation. It also serves as a tourism specialty that balances environmental, economic, and socio-cultural benefits and concerns.
Lea Dopson, chair of the Hospitality Management program and administrator of the new degree, says students who enroll in the degree program "will receive an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to study sustainable tourism issues in a country that has positioned itself as a leader in the field.
Costa Rica, a pioneer in environmental conservation, welcomes more than 2 million visitors each year and generates more than $2.2 billion in tourism revenues. The country's network of national parks and conservation areas, biodiversity, innovative policies and exceptional geographic location make it ideal for scholars and institutions devoted to uses relating to natural resources, Dopson says.
"It is vital for successful tourism development professionals to understand the interdependencies between the three pillars of sustainable development: economic benefits, environmental impacts, and social and cultural resources," she says. "Our students will be learning to solve practical sustainability issues. Some will graduate with a policy focus and work with local, regional and national governments to affect change. Others will have an operations focus, working with tourism companies and hotels to develop companywide sustainability initiatives."
The field or research experience required in the degree program, Dopson says, could result in a student studying eco-lodges near Costa Rican volcanoes, working with governmental agencies in policy development, or researching the preservation of beaches and natural resources surrounding a resort hotel.
She noted that the unique features of the master's program are its international scope, the hospitality services/operations focus of sustainable tourism and application of sustainable tourism in different nations.
"The partnership with CATIE will contribute to the international objectives of UNT and has the potential to increase participation among interested students in all majors," Dopson says.
The degree program, she says, should be of interest to students with bachelor's degrees in anthropology, biology, ecology, environmental science, business, public administration, recreation and leisure studies, sociology and many other areas in addition to hospitality management and tourism.
For more information about the new degree program, contact Lisa Kennon, associate professor and graduate coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 940-565-4257.
With its headquarters in Turrialba, Costa Rica, CATIE is an internationally recognized research, higher education and technical cooperation center for agriculture and natural resource management in Latin America and the Caribbean. It has 13 member countries that reach from Mexico to Paraguay and the longest-running graduate program in agriculture and natural resources in Latin America.
Nancy Kolsti with UNT News Service can be reached at email@example.com.