Hospitality and tourism program growing

FSU purchased the Warren Conference Center in 2016 from Northeastern University. (Courtesy of the Warren Conference Center)

In 1957, Edith Smith Warren, wife of Henry Ellis Warren, donated 40 acres of their family farm in Ashland to Northeastern University. 

FSU purchased the property from Northeastern University for $8 million dollars in April 2016.

One of the main reasons for FSU’s purchase of the property was to eventually use the center to grow a hospitality major at the University. 

Three years after the purchase of the Warren Conference Center, FSU will now begin its first full school year with a Hospitality and Tourism program. 

Prior to being owned by FSU, the property was initially named The Warren Center for Physical Education and Recreation. It hosted an overnight summer camp for handicapped and underprivileged children, as well as the children of Northeastern University staff.

The same property, now named the Warren Conference Center, is located at 529 Chestnut St., roughly five miles from campus. It hosts a wide range of events including weddings, bar mitzvahs, and corporate meetings.

 FSU President F. Javier Cevallos said, “When the idea of purchasing the Warren Center came up, I thought it would be ideal to have a hospitality program to use the Warren Center in terms of internships.” 

However, the program has yet to use the Warren Conference Center.

A management company called Flik Hospitality currently runs the center, and members of Flik’s management team are often invited to campus as guest speakers for the hospitality and tourism courses offered at FSU. 

Flik also provides incentives to help promote institutional use of the facility in the short term.

FSU Executive Vice President Dale Hamel said Flik “will be providing a 25% incentive, and then we will be taking a portion of the net income and subsidize it further to another 25% to encourage institutional use.

“This will essentially direct activity that has been going to other facilities, in the past, to our own facilities,” Hamel added. 

The hospitality program will have to gain more students in order to begin operating the center for various events. 

John Umit Palabiyik, hospitality and tourism management program coordinator at FSU, explained, “The program’s vision right now is to take one more year to continue growing the major before we begin using the Warren Center.

“The long-term vision is ideally to turn the center into a student-run hotel,” he added. 

In the fall 2018 semester, FSU began offering introductory courses in hospitality and tourism to generate interest in the program before its approval in December 2018 by the Board of Higher Education.

Since the program’s approval, Palabiyik has seen the number of students in his Introduction to Hospitality and Tourism class grow from 12 students, in the first semester, to 29 students in the spring semester of 2019, he said. 

The hospitality and tourism program has now grown to 14 students  less than a year after the program’s official approval.  

“A majority of schools with a hospitality program have a small facility like a cafeteria to run, or they will often have a partnership with corporate hotels. For example, Boston University has a cooperation with Marriott,” said Palibiyik.

What separates the Warren Center from other alternatives is its “high-touch” approach to the hospitality industry. This approach offers a more personable relationship between guests and faculty. 

The other option is the “high-tech” approach used in corporate companies, he added. 

Certain services like wake-up calls can differ drastically depending upon the approach hotels take. 

“For example, the high-touch approach would be a personal call, and the high-tech approach would be an automated call without any human interaction,” said Palabiyik. 

One challenge FSU has is providing transportation to the Warren Center. “There are a lot of opportunities for the Warren Center. It is my vision that many of the activities we host on campus could be moved to there. The one problem that persists is transportation,” said Palibiyik.

Since the Warren Center is not located on campus, it remains relatively unknown to a fair number of students. 

Senior Brenden Williams said, “I didn’t even know our school owned a hotel. I can’t imagine that’s a very common thing for a school to have.”

 Sophomore Jake Garman said, “I think it’s pretty interesting our school has that property. It would make a great place for teams and clubs to do team-building events.”

Although many students are unaware FSU owns a hotel, it appears that much of the student body finds this fact interesting.

Sophomore Zach Bettmeng said, “I just transferred to FSU, so I’m not completely aware of all the places our school has for its students, but I’m surprised our school bought a hotel to use as part of a program on campus. It’s a neat brag.”

Junior Andrew Tiernan said, “I have never been to the Warren Center, but I’ve driven by it and always wondered why there were FSU signs in the parking lot. I bet it’d be a great place to watch the sunset and look at the stars.”

Junior Miranda Barboza said, “I know the school has a hotel for the new hospitality major that they added last year. I think it’s a cool asset for the students to get some real-world experience there. I also assume the school makes a profit off of it over time with guests staying there.”