ASU-Heber Springs rekindles hospitality program after hiatus

Originally Published December 30, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 28, 2012 at 11:31 a.m.
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Cindy Bailey observes a plating technique demonstrated by University of Arkansas professor and chef Robert Harrington during a class at Arkansas State University-Heber Springs. The hospitality management program at ASU-Heber Springs will return this spring.

— After a short hiatus, the hospitality program at Arkansas State University-Heber Springs is back and looking to get the community involved.

The degree program, which offers an associate degree in hospitality administration, began in 2009 when the administration began to notice how big the hospitality industry is in the area.

“Before there was oil and gas, there was hospitality, and after that’s gone, there will still be hospitality,” said Chris Boyett, vice chancellor at ASU-Heber Springs.

The degree program is built in three segments. Students first focus on core subjects, including English and math, then move on to business classes. Students in the program end with a focus on the hospitality part of the degree, including learning about dining and lodging.

“For a long time, we had those hospitality-specific classes in the summer, and that’s when all the people in the industry are working,” Boyett said. So the university put the program on hold for a few semesters to reschedule things to better fit students’ needs. The degree program will begin again in January.

The program will also begin a series of classes through the university’s continuing education department. The classes, taught by ASU-Heber Springs student and chef Chris Platt, will include a class on Super Bowl Party Appetizers on Jan. 29, a Valentine’s Day Dinner class on Feb. 7, an Easter Dinner class series on March 12 and 14, a pastry class series on April 16 and 18, and a catering class series on May 14 and 15.

There will be a fee for the classes, which can be registered for through the continuing education department by calling Jody Rath at (501) 362-1273.

Although the class series is new, it won’t be Platt’s first time to demonstrate cooking techniques. With 28 years of experience in the restaurant industry under his belt, Platt helped demonstrate a few recipes to the faculty last year, which sparked the idea for the new class series.

Platt decided to head to ASU-Heber Springs and the hospitality administration program in order to have

credentials to go along with his decades of work experience.

“A lot of people in the industry come in on the bottom line and work their way up,” Platt said.

In general, those who come into the hospitality industry with a degree in a related field are able to begin at a higher salary range than those who don’t have a degree, said adjunct professor Rusty Miller, who noted that the hospitality industry is the second largest in the state of Arkansas.

“[With a degree], you can probably start out in a supervisory position,” Miller said. “You don’t have to start out at the bottom.”

The program also shows students there is more to hospitality than just managing a restaurant or working in a hotel.

“There’s the cruise industry, golf-course management or casinos,” Miller said. “There are a lot of things that we try to introduce the students to.”

In the final months of their degree program, hospitality management students learn about food prep, dining-service management, safety and sanitation, and nutrition. The students’ final includes putting together a banquet for the faculty, Miller said.

“It’s a fun final. … The whole staff really enjoys that test,” Boyett said.

The hospitality administration program currently has around 10 students enrolled, Boyett said. ASU-Heber Springs has around 500 students enrolled on campus, with the majority of students coming from the Heber Springs area.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or