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By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE – Maureen Gittelman never in her wildest dreams envisioned herself as a teacher, let alone a college professor; however, that is exactly how her journey evolved, and she could not be more thrilled.
Possessing a solid marketing background, Gittelman was immersed in a successful 20 year career in not-for –profit management positions, including social media marketing, strategic planning, leadership development and fundraising pursuits. She eventually landed a spot as the Deputy Director of the Eleanor Roosevelt Center. It was here that the teaching flame was lit. While leading a class in leadership, directed at community college students, the elated Gittelman caught the educator bug and “was hooked.” Before long, in 2015, a chance to teach a Business Management and Organization course at Dutchess Community College (DCC) surfaced, and Gittelman felt a magnetic pull, applying for and landing the position. This teaching shift, which started as an adjunct and has flourished into full-time (2017), immediately felt natural, allowing her to share her real-world business expertise while guiding students towards discovering their own passions.
Now, flash forward to 2018. The Hudson Valley region- home of many DCC students- is being reported as the fastest growing area in New York. People from all over are flocking here, taking advantage of the many diversified, unique offerings. DCC, a major player in the area, is well aware of these exciting surges, and responds. There is a pitch and plan for a brand new major course of study: Hospitality and Tourism; in February, 2021 it’s officially approved as an Applied Associates Degree Program, and Gittelman is selected as the Program Chairperson.
“The College responded to the real industry need for a qualified and highly skilled talent pool of employees in these fields in our area,” explained Gittelman. “When I was approached for this position, I was thrilled to be a part of a brand new program at DCC which is very timely, and we are all hopeful will flourish, while providing exciting career opportunities for graduates.”
Rooted in a strong business foundation, the two year program will empower students with the critical skills necessary for the area’s rapidly evolving hospitality and tourism industry. Offering career-relevant coursework, hands-on-learning and internships, the major field of study will further equip students with the tools needed to pursue supervisory and mid-management positions in such areas as; lodging, food service, tourism and hospitality
“What makes this new program so exciting is that students are going to be learning a host of skills in addition to the hospitality and tourism knowledge,” said Gittelman. “This will ultimately allow them a lot of mobility- for both job advancement as well as location- in their field; there are unlimited opportunities out there today, as they even have positions in hospitals for people with this kind of training and background.”
Graduates will also have the priceless Hudson Valley as their “home court advantage” for job pickings.
“This area has so much to offer-both to us who live here locally as well as an incredible tourism destination,” explained Gittelman. “From the culinary options, to outdoor adventures, to wineries and distilleries, to county fairs to all of the history, it’s just full of so many wonderful choices.”
And it’s those very “choices” or options that truly energize Gittelman about the new Hospitality and Tourism Program’s potential. Just as she never envisioned becoming a college teacher and absolutely loving it, so too, she wants to show younger people that you just never know where your life can take you and to embrace that uncertainty with education and versatility.
“I tell my students all the time how important it is to be open- skills learned in one area can transfer to another, and you just never know what is around the corner,” smiled Gittelman, who cannot wait to embark upon her unexpected, and much welcomed new position as Program Chairperson. “I would recommend this major to anyone who loves working with the public and is looking for exciting, growing career opportunities; you will discover all that and much, much more.”
To learn more about the Hospitality and Tourism Program, log onto: Sunydutchess.edu/hospitality. Classes start on August 23, 2021 with several flexible learning opportunities offered.