Master Program HTH Now and Then

5 July 2016

Many experts today keep insisting that we are traversing the largest period of change in our race’s short history; and while part of me is willing to contest this by pointing out all the major changes and their respective impact on our society since discovering fire or inventing the wheel, I can’t help but marvel, not at just the level, but at the speed at which these more recent changes have reshaped our lives! 

The truth is that when the iPhone first came out, less than ten years ago, it seemed impossible to believe that in less than a decade, smartphones would become the dominant form of personal communication, so much so that an entire new social, economic and even linguistic culture would ensue from it!  Yet here we are, “apping” instead of “texting”, “checking in” to a venue rather than visiting it, taking “selfies”, and only rarely asking someone to take a picture for us. 

As we make ready to welcome the third cohort of this program, we cannot help looking back on the journey traveled; it can be said in a way that HTH has gone from Master 1.0 to Master 2.0 – a clear, yet remarkable evolution generated from the onset by our mission to always deliver what the industry needs, as opposed to what it wants. 

If we consider the then and the now, the New Millennium brought about great changes for our Hotelschool, as we took our first steps into the world of graduate education.  This was a time of discovery and learning for our community, as we began researching and developing our new Master Program.  To aid us in this daunting task, we sought out partners to collaborate with; who would assist us both with the creation and implementation of our new program.  Erasmus University answered the call, and together we launched our first Master Program at the Villa of our The Hague Campus. 

Owing to HTH’s history and tradition, we sought to tailor our Master degree to the needs of the industry, just like we had, have, always done with our other programs.  Therefore, our Master strove to combine the main aspects of business administration and hospitality management into a cohesive, modular program that would be suited to individuals with diverse professional and academic backgrounds.  Diverse backgrounds obviously meant diverse outcomes as well, and each year we witnessed alumni heading off in very different directions; from consulting, to corporate, to departmental management.  But most interestingly, we noticed that a significant portion went on to work in sectors that were quite unrelated to hospitality management.

This Master of Science was designed around four main aspects of organizational management – Marketing, Finance, Operations and Human Resources; and even today, these are still considered the main drivers of an organization’s bottom line.  To better grasp the individual aspects of these pillars, the program offered a three-step, modular approach to learning, based on periodicity.  Appropriately labeled “Strategic”, “Tactical” and “Operational”, these modules respectively explored the Long-Term, Mid-Term and Short-Term scenarios of each main subject, and offered students an in-depth overview of their effects on an organization’s bottom line.

During the program’s development and all through its eleven-year run, both Erasmus and HTH had identified certain trends that were seemingly gaining in intensity and could someday turn into the main drivers of the Tertiary Sector, maybe even the economy as a whole.  From the standardization of quality measurement, to globalization, from the emergence of the internet of things to the advent of big data; it became increasingly clear that services were becoming commodities, and organizations would have to seek alternative means of differentiating if they wished to remain competitive in this new reality, where change was ever-present, and speeding up as it went along…

After the 11th successful cohort graduated, HTH felt the time was right to conduct an extensive overhaul, and thus in 2012, the new Master Program was born.  Taking all the learnings, feedback and experiences from the previous program, the new program sought to redefine certain priorities and take us a step further along the road to educating young professionals who “combine business brains with a hospitality heart”.  Extensive industry research was undertaken to ensure that the new program would remain faithful to the trends that spurred the creation of the previous one, thereby fulfilling our original objective of bridging the gap between what the service industry wanted, and what it actually needed.

As some of these trends became more established, open, collaborative work and research methodologies and holistic conceptualization began to seize the spotlight.  By 2012, “Service Design” had become the new hip way of referring to creating new service concepts, or updating, reimagining or improving current services; this was only eight years after the Service Design Network had been launched, and this became the central idea behind the new MBA.  The pillars of the program went from being specific aspects of organizational management to broad, multidisciplinary concepts that mutually reinforce each other:

  • “Innovation” brought the general idea of discovering; of looking for new ways of working, of researching, of managing, of thinking outside the box, or even creating a new box to think in…  Innovation was the key to remaining competitive in an ever-changing world.
  • “Strategy” reasserted the importance of designing; of ensuring that whatever Innovation brought along could and would be made to serve a specific organization’s culture and values…  Strategy reminded us to ensure that our solutions were coherent, cohesive and feasible.
  • “Change” focused on the process of delivering; of guaranteeing the successful implementation of Innovation, by isolating the best scenarios within which to deploy the Strategy…  Change enabled decision-making and served as a reminder that this whole process was continuous.

It would be a mistake however to assume that the two programs can be compared to each other – the circumstances and environment that fostered their creation were starkly different, but their purpose – that hasn’t changed, and it will continue to guide us toward the next level as our reality continues to change.

Diego Salvatierra

MBA Applicant