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Interview with Dr. Lynn Minnaert, the Academic Director at the Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University

Dr. Lynn Minnaert is the Academic Director and a Clinical Associate Professor at the Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University. Her research interests are social tourism for low-income groups, family tourism and the social legacies of mega-events. Her research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the European Union, the International Olympic Committee, regional tourist boards, and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). As a tourism and hospitality expert, her work and advice were quoted in numerous articles, NBC News, The New York Times, Skift, and more.

Tell me about yourself? Personally and professionally

I am a Clinical Associate Professor and the Academic Director at the NYU Tisch Center of Hospitality. I am originally from Belgium, and completed my Master’s and PhD studies in London. I worked at the University of Westminster and the University of Surrey until 2013, when I moved to NYC to take up a position at NYU. I live in Astoria with my husband, and love traveling, reading and trying out new restaurants and dishes.

As the academic chair, what are three things people might not know about the company

I think people may not know that  an education in hospitality and tourism can prepare for a wealth of careers. Often people only think of travel agents, tour guides and front desk staff when thinking of hospitality professionals, because those roles are very visible to the tourist. The tourism sector is however one of the largest employers, and offers a range of career paths that span many aspects of management, marketing and operations.

A second thing people may not know is that the Tisch Center has industry relations and employability at the core of everything we do. Being housed in the NYU School of Professional Studies, it is our aim to combine academic excellence with experiential and applied learning at every level. While we are not the only school to have this goal, at NYUSPS it is really part of our DNA.

A third thing people may not know is that the Tisch Center will soon be launching an MS program fully dedicated to Event Management. This will be the first program of its kind in the USA, and a wonderful way to showcase yet another exciting sub-sector of hospitality and tourism.

In education, an interesting trend is that women are often routed towards more student-facing roles, as they are traditionally seen as more caring. While I love working with students personally, this sometimes limits other initiatives I could get involved in.

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Did you always know you wanted to go into academia?

Not really… I enjoyed my college days, so it was something I was interested in, but it isn’t always seem feasible as a career path. After I completed my MS degree in London, I returned to Belgium and found work in a social tourism office – an office that focused on providing tourism experiences to people on low incomes, or people with disabilities. While I enjoyed the subject matter, I quickly realized a traditional office environment was not for me. At that point I reconnected with my Professors back in London, who told me a PhD scholarship had just become available. The rest, as they say, is history!

What challenges as a woman do you face holding a high powered position in the industry?

I think many of the challenges women face are probably similar across different industries: women often have to speak up more to be heard, and when they have a passion for something, they are sometimes misrepresented as ’emotional’ or ‘demanding’. In education, an interesting trend is that women are often routed towards more student-facing roles, as they are traditionally seen as more caring. While I love working with students personally, this sometimes limits other initiatives I could get involved in.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

When I had just finished my PhD, there were two positions open in my department: a postdoc and a lecturer position. The lecturer position was my goal, but unfortunately I was not offered the role, as I had limited experience at that time. However, rather than letting that get me down, I used that opportunity to accrue as much teaching experience as possible as a postdoc, and to build relationships with wonderful mentors. I have no doubt that having to push myself at that time, helped me advance faster in my career later.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

I feel there is a lot of pressure on our younger students to know their career ambitions when they enter the program – they are supposed to have to have it all figured out. I feel undergraduate studies in particular are a time of personal and professional exploration – being flexible and open to new experiences is often more beneficial than closing yourself off to anything that is not in line with a goal you set at such a young age. In my experience, at that age your passion tends to find you through experiences… it is OK to pursue different paths early on, so you can discover the right one for you.

What’s your prediction in 5 years from now for NYC tourism?

Because of the size of NYC, I don’t foresee that the city will struggle with overtourism too soon. The city has seen steady growth in visitor numbers in the past decade or so, but supply is keeping  steady pace, so unless an international political crisis or natural disaster occurs, I am expecting we will see continued increases in visitation.

Which tourism book changed your life?

I was a literature major in my undergraduate studies, so this book is less of a travel novel. I love Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. It plays with different locations to represent different cultures: the UK, the US and Italy. I always loved to travel because I enjoy meeting new people and exploring new cultures – I feel this very cleverly builds that into the story. Maybe it is less that this book changed my life, but that reading great novels like this encourages you to look for the stories that live in the places you visit.

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