Dr. Chang Huh and Mckenzee Lazore were awarded first place for their research proposal at the 2022 THEREPS Conference in Philadelphia. They are pictured with Dr. Chihyung “Michael” Ok, president of the KAHTEA and co-chair of the THEREPS conference.

A research proposal developed by Mckenzee Lazore, a senior from Hogansburg, N.Y., majoring in luxury hotel operations in Niagara University’s College of Hospitality, Sport, and Tourism Management, and Dr. Chang Huh, a professor in the college, was selected as the best proposal at the 12th annual THEREPS (Tourism, Hospitality, and Event Conference for Researchers, Educators, Practitioners, and Students) Conference in Philadelphia April 15 and 16, 2022.

The proposal, “How has the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Hospitality Students on Post-secondary Education?” was among nine presented during the conference’s Undergraduate Research Forum. Recognizing that the COVID pandemic has had unprecedented effects on college and university students, Mckenzee and Dr. Huh completed an extensive literature review to gather information for their proposal. The study they suggested would investigate the areas of hospitality education that have had a negative effect on hospitality students due to the pandemic and would also examine hospitality students’ self-confidence, competency, and career plans in light of the pandemic.

“We would want to look at students' practical opportunities, such as internships, hospitality curriculum, and the learning environments (online, hybrid, in-person) and see how those areas have been affected by COVID,” Mckenzee explained. 

They expect that findings from this research, which would be conducted through self-administered surveys completed by students majoring in hospitality and tourism programs across the U.S., will help hospitality educators understand their students’ concerns, as well as assist industry professionals to attract and retain prospective employees.

“Doing a project and having an experience like this was very outside of my comfort bubble as a student and person, but this has shown me that when you try new things, you never know what good things can come of it,” said Mckenzee, who plans to start her career this summer with an internship at a luxury boutique resort in the Finger Lakes area of New York state. “So it is encouraging that when you step outside of what you would normally do, it can teach you more things about yourself than when you stay where you are comfortable.” 

“Undergraduate students who can work on research projects with faculty during their study at NU can make themselves different from others and experience something they have never had in regular classrooms,” added Dr. Huh.

The THEREPS conference is hosted by the Korea America Hospitality & Tourism Educators Association, which was created in 2011 to foster academic and professional collaboration and networking between hospitality and tourism educators and industry professionals in both Korea and America. As a conference host, the KAHTEA aims to better connect to researchers and industry professionals and to provide students and educators with opportunities to showcase their intellectual endeavor. The 2022 event was the first in-person conference in two years.  

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