Bahamas Trailblazers’ Graduate In Style

As the first cohort for the Master’s program, seven Bahamians received degrees at Oxford and will apply their skills to the industry

Surrounded by the grandeur of Oxford University, seven leading Bahamians in the hospitality industry made history as the country’s first graduates in the Master’s of Management, Hospitality and Tourism program - the only cohort where all members achieved distinction or credit.

The ceremony, held at the prestigious UK institution on Sept 24, was also attended by graduates from many different countries, including Vanuatu, the UK, Finland, Australia and Malaysia.

The degree was offered to tourism industry professionals through Revans University/IMCA in conjunction with the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA).

In her valedictorian address, Lynne Johnson, Director of Catering and Convention Services at the Sheraton Nassau Resort, said this group of Bahamians have dubbed themselves “Bahamas Trailblazers”.

“Represented here tonight are six trails for other Bahamian professionals to follow,” she told the audience.

The idea, she said, is to further educate the professionals behind the country’s most precious industry.

Jermaine Wright, the director of business Development at the British Colonial Hilton, who also graduated as salutatorian with distinction, said they will return home and “utilize [their] knowledge to take the Bahamian tourism sector to another plateau”.

“This group of professionals will now be able to engage in consultancy as they have in-depth knowledge of various areas of research,” he told Guardian Business.

During the one-year program, led by Dr J. Anthony Hall and Dr T. Jennifer Edwards, students attended classes all-day on Saturday and Sunday every six weeks.

Through the university and BHA, classes were made convenient and accessible to the working professionals.

Projects, assignments and a thesis were part of the Master’s program. Topics for the thesis included food and beverage management, out-sourcing in the hospitality industry, bonefishing in The Bahamas, the mix use of condo hotels and resorts, automatic 15 percent gratuity in The Bahamas, the Americas and Globally, marine operators of The Bahamas and Cruise Conversion: capturing increased revenues from cruise ship passengers.

Wright hopes other Bahamians will blaze trails of their own.

“I would recommend this program to other senior hospitality leaders within the sector,” he added.

“The flexibility of the class schedule is conducive to working professionals. The program gives one an opportunity to not only expand knowledge, but also be part of a selective fraternity of fellow industry leaders.”

In fact, on the heels of this success, the next cohort has already begun, with seven new students currently studying towards their degrees.

After arriving in London with family and friends, the most recent graduates also took part in an educational workshop one day before heading to Oxford for the ceremony. Upon returning to London, the graduates also paid a courtesy call on the Bahamas High Commissioner to the United Kingdom - his Excellency Paul Farquaharson at Bahamas House.

Desire Moxey, Director of Catering and Conventional Services at Wyndham Nassau Resort, Shamine Johnson, manager at BHA, Carmel Churchill, group sales manager at Grand Lucayan Resort, Raylene Gardiner, owner services manager at Old Bahama Bay and Raymond Francis, executive director at the Out Island Tourism Board rounded out the original Bahamian cohort for this program.

The highlight of the experience was perhaps the graduation dinner and reception, when Johnson delivered her speech to a thunderous standing ovation.

She described their “Action Learning Journey” to the formation of a hurricane - growing from tropical disturbance, tropical depression, tropical storm and a hurricane - that ends with a push to “discover our abilities and achieving strengthened skills and an invaluable experience”.

“Ours will show a trail of survival, leadership and growth,” he said, “which we have blazed for our fellow Bahamians to follow.”

The Nassau Guardian
Published: Oct 07, 2011