November 10, 2022

Faculty Spotlight: Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality Clinical Associate Professor Donna M. Kelly

Donna M. Kelly, PhD, is a clinical associate professor at the NYU SPS Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, where she currently teaches Customer Relationship Management and Loyalty, Event Marketing Strategies, and Tourism Planning & Policy. Kelly is a Tisch Center alumna, a member of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) - New York Chapter, a member of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners (NCBMP), and has been trained and certified as a tour guide trainer by the World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations in collaboration with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and HEART/NSTA Trust. She joined us to discuss trends and changes impacting the meetings and events industry, her passion for teaching, and how she leverages her vast professional experience to empower students.

What factors have most changed the meetings and events industry over the course of your career?
Many factors have impacted the industry, including––but not limited to––the internet and mobile technology, the evolving needs and demands of meeting and event attendees, and the shared economy.

The human desire to socialize is unquenchable because we are social beings, so meeting and event attendees constantly seek more enriching and meaningful experiences. Because the world is now effectively a "global village," everything can be available, viewed, scrutinized, and even criticized in nanoseconds. Meeting professionals and event organizers must put their best foot forward every time. This pushes meetings and event practitioners to be accountable, and to make excellence a hallmark of their executions.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a cataclysmic shift in the industry––burgeoning technologies were catapulted into becoming must-have platforms virtually overnight. How we conducted business had to be reimagined at great speed, with immense creativity, to ensure the survival of the meeting and event sectors.

How do you think your industry experience informs your teaching?
As my career has taken me across the globe, it has provided me with insights from various global stakeholders. Acknowledging other perspectives and understanding cultures are essential skills to have as a meeting and event practitioner, and this skill set is better fostered by living in other countries. I often include stories from my real-life experiences in my lectures, and my students say they find these anecdotes to be powerful teaching tools.

They allow me to craft class assignments that apply to the real world to help my students better grasp complex theories and concepts. I also learn from my students, who come from diverse ethnic, academic, and professional backgrounds––I often say in class that we are the United Nations!

How do you feel prospective students considering Tisch will benefit professionally from earning a degree?
Having an academic qualification from an accredited higher education institution is always an advantage––but to have an academic qualification from a leading top-tier university such as NYU, specifically the Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, is game-changing. Forging valuable networks and partnerships, creating lifelong bonds with your contemporaries, being exposed to thought leaders and industry executives, and having access to the latest technologies are just some of the many benefits of earning a degree from the Tisch Center.

As an alumna of the Center, I can vouch for the quality of the education and the opportunities it has created for me. Anyone who decides to pursue a degree program with us will not regret that decision.

Are there any changes or trends in the field that the Tisch curriculum is uniquely equipped to address?
The Tisch Center of Hospitality is highly resourced, providing innovation labs, demonstrative tools, and technologies that augment student learning and engagement. Thus, our curriculum, faculty, and facilities make the Center uniquely equipped to address changes and trends within the hospitality and tourism field.

Our applied learning methodologies connect complex theories to real-world situations, ensuring students have the ability to test their understanding in a safe learning space. Our close ties to industry partners provide invaluable experiential learning, such as our work with Sophisticated Weddings for New York Bridal Fashion Week (NYBFW).

Cocurricular groups, such as the Tourism and Travel Research Collaboratory (TTRC), and student-led groups, such as the Hospitality, Tourism & Events Society (HTES), provide students with a less formal environment to discuss topical issues relevant to the HTE sector.

Collaborative outreach with other global universities, such as the University of Queensland (UQ), resulted in the recent online conference, Leveraging the 2032 Olympic & Paralympic Games: Preparing Small Business, while the Center's Hospitality Innovation Hub (HI Hub) benefits from partnerships with Hoteza, Cendyn, and Phocuswright, among other prominent organizations driving the industry forward.

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