Three faculty members of the University of St. Martin (USM) Hospitality and Tourism Management Program in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, have earned the Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE®) designation. Dr. Natasha Gittens, CHE; Erwin Wolthuis, CHE; and Jan van Beek, CHE; participated in a CHE® workshop in April at Antigua & Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute and passed the certification exam. Earning this certification is part of an overall plan to boost the quality and status of the school’s hospitality department.

“USM is growing and expanding at record speed and we fully understand the value and benefits of the CHE® certification. Therefore, receiving this national recognition is in direct alignment with our overall USM mission,” said Gittens, a Hospitality & Business Division faculty member, who has also been selected for the mentorship program to become a Master CHE® Trainer.

Wolthuis, head of the Hospitality & Business Division, said that having lecturers who have earned the CHE® proves the quality of the school’s HTM program and is another step toward USM’s goal of having a fully-accredited HTM program.

Founded in 1989, the University of St. Martin has 400 full- and part-time students, and offers a number of career-oriented degree programs, including an associate of applied science in hospitality and tourism management and bachelor of science in hospitality and tourism management. The school was created as an annex of Johnson & Wales University, and offers students the opportunity to continue their education at that school and many others with whom USM partners in the United States, Canada, and France.

Dr. Francio Guadeloupe, USM’s president, explained how hospitality education-through USM-fits into the socio-economic profile of the Caribbean as a whole and St. Maarten in particular.

“It goes without saying that the dominant political mapping of the Caribbean-Dutch, French, English, Spanish-does not fully coincide with the social and the economic one. Sint Maarten may be part of the Dutch Caribbean and Saint Martin part of the French Caribbean, but this knowledge helps us little if the University of St. Martin (USM) wishes to best serve the island’s population and cooperate with the hospitality sector,” Guadeloupe stated.

“The USM thinks of the Caribbean in three socio-economic categories:
• White Gold: sugar, salt, and other agro-based plantation societies;
• Black Gold: oil and other industrial based societies;
• Visa Gold: hospitality tourism dominated societies.

“Sint Maarten & Saint Martin-it is after all one island-belongs to the third category. Visa Gold societies have a multicultural make up. More than 100 nationalities inhabit our 34-square-mile Caribbean heaven, and we serve a multicultural clientele from the wider world: The USA, Europe, Canada, and Latin America. Service on Sint Maarten & Saint Martin is King. As such, everyone has to cultivate the art of hospitality,” he said. “The USM is embarking on making hospitality the flagship of our university. For this we will be working closely with businesses on the island that have the practical expertise necessary to improve our Visa Gold society.”

According to Wolthuis, USM’s hospitality department is working closely with the St. Maarten Hotel and Trade Association (SHTA) to establish expected educational standards for the local hospitality industry.

“It is our job, with the help of our experienced and qualified faculty, to exceed those expectations,” he said. “It has become our goal to take the provision of hospitality services in St. Maarten to the next level; the CHE® certifications are a great first step toward reaching the goal.”

Gittens added that USM’s mission is twofold-to enhance professionals currently in the hospitality industry and to provide newcomers to the industry with the tools they need to succeed.

“The CHE® has equipped our hospitality faculty with the tools to achieve our goals, in additional to modern-day best practices and advanced instructional methodologies,” she stated. “I am confident that as a USM faculty member and CHE® instructor, our team of experts will increase enrollment in our hospitality programs and increase our high graduation rates, while simultaneously producing skilled, real-world-ready professionals for the hotel and lodging industry.”

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