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Noted Hotel Academic to Head UW-Stout Hospitality Program

Lalia Rach Led New York University’s Tisch Center to Tap Ranks of Hotel Programs

Lalia Rach, one of the most respected academics in the hotel industry, is stepping out of the classroom and back into university administration. Next month, Rach will join the University of Wisconsin-Stout as associate dean of the College of Management and director of the School of Hospitality Leadership.

“Some things tend to be of a serendipitous nature, but it takes hard work to create that serendipity and luck,” says Rach, who returns to the school where she began her hospitality teaching career more than 25 years ago. “It’s the right thing in all ways. The juices began to flow when I thought about again leading a program and making change happen. The icing on the cake is that I’ll be back in my home state.”

For the past year and a half, Rach has been teaching at the New York University Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, a program she led for 15 years before leaving for a sabbatical and then returning to the classroom. During her tenure as divisional dean of the program, the Tisch Center evolved into one of the leading hospitality educational programs in the world.

Under her leadership, the Tisch center expanded its undergraduate and graduate programs and completed a $30-million capital campaign that enabled the school to move into a dedicated building on the university’s Greenwich Village campus. In addition, she cites as major accomplishments the establishment of a sports management program that focuses on the business side of sports.

“In 1997 we started the first concentration in revenue management in a graduate program,” she says. “There were courses in revenue management before, but no concentrations. From there, we expanded to an undergraduate concentration in the discipline.”

Another major feat, to which Rach great credits the leadership of Loews Hotels’ Jonathan Tisch, is the growth of the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, a three-day event each June that regularly attracts more than 2,000 hotel industry owners, operators, investors and lenders.

“The conference was fully formed when we took it over in 1996, but we were able to both expand and diversify the attendance. Today, there are many more women and international attendees,” she says. “We were also able to expand the sponsorship and patronage. It was [conference chairman] Jon Tisch’s leadership that brought a whole new tone to the conference.”

The UW-Stout hospitality program is more than 40 years old and has about 650 students. The program includes specializations in food and beverage management and golf enterprise management, as well as hotel management. Rach believes as director she can help the program fine-tune its curriculum to meet the changing directions of the hospitality industry in the next decade and beyond.

“We’re at a time in the global hotel and tourism industry where education needs a better place at the table,” says Rach. “There needs to be more serious and targeted interaction between hospitality higher education and industry.”

She believes UW-Stout’s designation as a polytechnic institution (one that’s more career-oriented than research-driven) helps it produce graduates well prepared for the business of hospitality. “A polytechnic university teaches students how to be problem solvers, which is a skill and attribute the hospitality needs more of,” she says. “In all [hospitality] curriculums, we’re good at the actual work of hospitality, but there is also a tremendous need for the intangible aspects of the business, such as negotiating skills and the abilities to be adaptable and to take risks.”

Rach’s roots in both Wisconsin and the hospitality industry run deep. Her grandmother was a restaurateur in her hometown of Spring Green, and following graduation from college Rach was a night auditor in a hotel before leaving to pursue higher degrees. Before joining the NYU Tisch Center, she was dean of the hospitality program at the University of New Haven and director of the tourism graduate program at George Washington University.

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