USCB has the Island Advantage



Charles Calvert has come full circle near a circle in his career in academia.

His first position was adjunct professor in 1988 for the University of South Carolina Beaufort, teaching a hotel management class. He was stationed at the old College Center on Office Park Road. Now he will soon be returning to that area near Sea Pines Circle — this time as the dean of USCB’s future hospitality management campus.

The university broke ground on the new campus on Office Park Road in February and plans to open by Fall 2018. The campus will be home to the hospitality management degree program, as well as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which holds continuing-education classes. The campus will also serve as a center for the local hospitality industry and offer a gathering place for civic activities, the university says.

After USCB opened its new main campus near Hardeeville in 2004 as an accredited four-year university, Calvert and the other faculty moved classes to the mainland. But throughout that time, he says, USCB has maintained a relationship with the island, especially as its hospitality management students conducted their internships in local restaurants and hotels.

USCB faculty and students have also served as a research arm for the island’s hospitality industry, collecting data at local events and festivals about visitors to help the area market itself as a resort destination. 

The Hilton Head campus will serve to strengthen those ties to the island, he says. Students in the degree program will spend their junior and senior years taking classes on the Hilton Head campus while continuing to work at local businesses. 

“The building allows us to teach our classes, and being on the island gives us a practical resource,” Calvert says.

Many of the classes feature guest lecturers from local restaurants and hotels, and the island location will make those appearances easier and more frequent. The students benefit from the convenience, as well, but also from gathering practical experience at a world-class resort destination, with such brands as Marriott, Sonesta, Sea Pines Resort and Disney represented.

“I believe having Hilton Head Island on your resume gives the students a competitive advantage,” Calvert says. “They can go anywhere in the world if they’ve worked on the island.”

The new campus will have some special features. Along with classrooms equipped with the latest technology that enable students to receive lectures from other campuses, the building will have a beverage lab and a kitchen designed to show students the food- and beverage-production processes. The campus does not provide culinary or bartending classes, rather its purpose is to expose students to the situations they will encounter in their careers. Graduates of the program enter such fields as hotel operations, food sales, equipment sales, hotel sales management, research and marketing for public and private tourism organizations, and private club management.

Initially, Calvert expects about 100 juniors and seniors in the major to frequent the campus, with it eventually growing to close to 400 students. He says the program primarily attracts graduates of high schools in Beaufort County and surrounding areas. Students also come from the Savannah area and transfer from the Technical College of the Lowcountry and Trident Technical College in Charleston. It also raises interest from students across the country who want to study in a world class destination location. 

“There’s a lot of local interest in the major,” he says. “Our goal is to serve the local market.”

There are no plans for student housing on Hilton Head Island. Students can live at the main campus in Bluffton, but Calvert says many choose to rent on the island. To Calvert, who got his career start on the island, it all makes sense. “USCB has had a 30-year presence in hospitality management education, which began on the island in 1987. This professional program of study is important to the local economy. Our students are very successful.  

“Hilton Head Island is the perfect place to study hospitality.”