Earlier this year the University of Memphis announced a strategic shift to operate the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management (KWS) as an independent school within the University. Previously housed as a part of the Fogelman College of Business and Economics for a decade, it now has a unique opportunity to serve its students with a more industry-driven curriculum through a new merger with Sports and Leisure Commerce, pending TBR approval.  In a short time its growth has been dramatic.  In just two years the class has swelled from 120 to 200 students—a remarkable 67% growth!  The merger proposal has the unanimous support of the involved faculty and positions KWS for continued growth and strategic expansion.

“This merger should continue the outstanding growth of the School and take advantage of newly formed collaborations with local industry and community partners that will surely enhance the student experience at The University of Memphis,” says Interim Provost Karen Weddle-West.

“We are very excited for the new positioning of the Kemmons Wilson School,” said Kemmons Wilson, Jr. “We want to provide a real-world environment within an academic setting. For example, the school itself is housed in a full-service hotel and conference center.  By broadening our course curricula, students will be better prepared on a wide range of hospitality issues. Ultimately, it will allow us to improve our training in regards to first-hand service standards, business challenges and real-time operations.”

“When Dr. Rudd proposed the idea for the merger to create Sport and Leisure Commerce, I was very excited about the synergies between the programs and the additional opportunities for growth it offers,” adds Dr. Radesh Palakurthi, Professor and Director of the School “The model is not uncommon across other universities where hospitality and sport management programs are housed together.  There is immense scope for growth for both the programs with the potential for offering joint degree programs in PGA Golf Management, Events Management and specialized graduate programs.  Needless to say, we are looking forward to working with the great team of faculty in Sport and Leisure to bring all such ideas to fruition.”

It is a move that excites faculty in both programs.  Dr. Tim Ryan, Sport and Leisure Management comments, “When our faculty heard about the opportunity to join the KWS, the opportunity seemed too good to pass up. All the exploration that we have done has indicated that this will allow for increased opportunities for our students and faculty. It is hard to see any kind of downside to this move, especially for the students.”  KWS Assistant Professor Dr. Eun Kyong (Cindy) Choi explains: “By merging the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management with the Sport and Leisure Management department, it will effectively attract more students and significantly help both programs to become leading programs in their respective fields.  By coalescing resources, both programs can operate more effectively and allow students to take classes from both disciplines.  In addition, there will be opportunities for faculty collaboration, particularly with regard to research.”

I certainly agree with Dr. Brennan Berg, Sport and Leisure Management, when he predicts “The new school will dynamically benefit many stakeholders: students, faculty and staff, alumni, the Memphis community, and our industry partners. It is an exciting time to be at the University of Memphis, especially in the Kemmons Wilson School.”  I have great confidence that the school will quickly rise to be a national leader.

M. David Rudd | President