By Angelia McGowan
Two of the classes Michael Wray taught when he arrived at Metro State in 2000 helped lay the foundation for a new minor, major, five certificates and special features to be offered in the new Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center (HLC).
Eleven years ago, he took on the Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events’ (HTE) Enology class, modifying the name to Wine Fundamentals, and collaborated with the nutrition program to create HTE’s first Healthy Cooking course. The impact of both classes continues to be felt.
Since Wray came to Metro State, the Board of Trustees has approved an HTE beverage minor, the human nutrition – dietetics major and five certificate programs, including beverage management where students receive credentials from the International Sommelier Guild.
“Nine full-time faculty and a half a dozen affiliate faculty are now in place to support this growth,” says Wray, who is looking forward to the fall 2012 opening of the HLC that will feature a 28,000-square-foot academic space. “We will offer a 3,000-bottle wine cellar, two culinary labs and two beverage labs.”
Delivering real food, beer and professional experience
The HLC also will feature a fully-functioning restaurant with a bar selling beer brewed by HTE students at the Sandlot Brewery, with proceeds coming back to the College, in addition to a sensory analysis lab with sound, light and air control just for food and wine tasting.
These assets will enrich the teacher–student learning environment and solidify the College’s footprint in the national hospitality industry, says Wray, who was inspired by the idea of a college hotel when he and HTE Chair John Dienhart both worked at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
“We want to be the center for beverage education in the West,” says Wray, who notes few higher education institutions in the U.S. have sensory labs as part of their hospitality programs, including the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and Florida International University in Miami. “I’ve been at other schools, but they are not open (to innovative ideas). The dean and president Stephen Jordan have allowed these kinds of ideas to progress and grow.”
The College is “positioned to attract amazing seminars and events in food and beverage management,” says Wray, who has delivered more than 70 refereed and non-refereed presentations at conferences, as well as wine and culinary demonstrations with the local and national news media.
In July, he will co-present twice at the International Council of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Educators—once with Dienhart and again with HTE Assistant Professor Shelly Owens.
Through research, grant and fundraising initiatives, he also has helped HTE raise more than $800,000 for student programming. More than $300,000 of that is attributed to his consulting work with Miller Coors and the Coors Foundation, where he and his students have developed more than 100 cooking recipes with the company’s products.
It’s one of the many real-world experiences he has helped to coordinate for HTE students, including their participation in the annual Food & Wine Classic held at Metro State.
Along the way, he earned his doctorate from UCD in education leadership and innovation. He holds an MBA from Purdue University and a bachelor’s in human nutrition and foods/hotel restaurant and institutional management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
“The Ph.D. was the biggest challenge (over the years),” says Wray, who cooked and tended bar at his August 2010 graduation party.
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