Name: Lisa Benson
Title: Assistant Professor, Hospitality Management
School: Green Mountain College, Poultney, Vt.Number of years with Green Mountain College: Less than one year.
Prior experience: Previously taught in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management in the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver.
Primary responsibilities: Teaching hospitality management courses and marketing the program.
What makes Green Mountain College unique: Every single class that students take has the environment as the focus.
Biggest challenge ahead: To grow the hospitality management program and to let industry leaders know that our students have all the tools to succeed.
POULTNEY, VT.—Even though Lisa Benson had been working in the hospitality industry since the age of 15 (in restaurants in California), it was not until she visited a friend in the Peace Corp three years later that she fell in love with the idea of pursuing an environment-related career. Today, she is an assistant professor teaching hospitality management courses at Green Mountain College and in the process of wrapping up a dissertation that is guaranteed to generate lodging industry interest.
The title of Benson’s dissertation: “Environmental Stewardship in Hospitality Organizations: Examining the Environmental Attitudes of Hospitality Management Students, Consumers and Hospitality Managers.” In her research, Benson set out to determine the relationship between eco-centric values and the likelihood that someone would act in an environmentally friendly way. In other words, if someone is already green-minded, will that play out in the travel or managerial decisions they make?
Benson surveyed the general population to determine whether or not a green label would impact their decision to stay at a hotel.
“The presence of an eco label did influence attributes toward environmental management practices,” Benson says. “Guests bought into what they were doing more and were more likely to participate.”
Benson also looked at the level of environmental concerns among 438 hospitality management students in the northwestern United States and found that they had few, if any, environmental concerns. After surveying 208 hospitality managers, she determined that those managers who already have concerns about the environment were much more likely to start environmental programs.
Diverse Educational Experience
Benson teaches a number of hospitality management courses at Green Mountain College, including “Nature-based Tourism,” a course that looks at the history of ecotourism and the impact it has on countries that market themselves as green destinations. She also teaches “Introduction to Marketing,” “Bar and Beverage Management,” “Lodging Operations,” and “Food and Beverage Management.” Benson says every course taught at the Poultney, Vt.-based college has an environmental focus.
“Our hospitality and resort management students are exposed to environmental stewardship every day,” she says.
In addition to teaching at the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management in the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, the experienced educator previously taught at University Center Cesar Ritz Hotel School in Brig, Switzerland, and at Washington State University.
Benson says that at the university and college level, the lodging industry is lacking in text books that deal with environment-related issues, especially in regard to operations.
“Every text book has very little, if any, environmental education in it,” she says. “You cannot find a book on green purchasing. There is a huge hole there.”
Benson says that is especially discouraging because so many hotels and restaurants are implementing green practices.
“Of all the travel industries, the meetings industry has spent the most time on green issues,” she says. “They seem to be ahead of the trend.”
To learn more, go to Green Mountain College.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.