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Author: BHSU Communications/Friday, August 14, 2020/Categories: Students, Academic Affairs, Campus Currents, College of Business and Natural Sciences, Community, 2020, 2021

The Center for Hospitality and Business at BHSU-Rapid City is under leadership of Hans Nelson who previously served as Director of Corporate Relations at BHSU.
Tourism and hospitality are big business in this region and now Black Hills State University is leading initiatives to ensure the need for qualified workers is met by creating an associate degree that can be completed in 16-months and includes many options for on-the-job learning along with classes. 

The Center for Hospitality and Business, located in the BHSU-Rapid City building near Exit 61 , is under leadership of Hans Nelson who previously served as Director of Corporate Relations at BHSU.  Nelson has been meeting with tourism and hospitality leaders as the program is developed and implemented.

Jim Hagen, Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, noted that the new program will strengthen partnerships and provide opportunities for employment for graduates.

“Tourism is one of South Dakota’s leading industries and it’s exciting that BHSU sees the possibilities that exist. The University is providing their students with a tremendous opportunity to gain real-world experience right here in South Dakota, while the industry itself has the opportunity to work directly with students who could easily become their next employees. These students are the future of our industry and the Department of Tourism is pleased to be involved.

Nelson noted that the “Learn and Earn” concept is a key component for the BHSU Associate Degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management that will be officially launched in January 2021. The associate degree includes 12 credit hours of internship credits where students earn valuable experience and connections by earning BHSU credit while working in a number of different tourism and hospitality businesses.

“It’s an integrated learning experience combining a professional paid internship with university-level learning,” Nelson said. “The new program is an affordable and efficient path to an associate degree in Tourism and Hospitality. The curriculum was co-developed with community partners in the Black Hills region and is designed to meet broad industry standards.”

The program covers four areas: lodging management, restaurant management, tourism management and event planning.  In addition, special topics classes could include an option to earn a necessary certification such as gaming or managing national lodging. Potential industry-recognized certifications that have a direct correlation with opportunities that are unique to the Black Hills, such as Casino Management and Adventure Tourism.

Students can take classes this fall including a new pilot class, Lodging Management, which will be taught on Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. beginning Thursday, Aug. 20. The class includes a combination of site visits, guest speakers and instructional application.

“This is an awesome opportunity to explore an industry that is one of our region’s leading economic drivers,” Nelson said.

BHSU has long offered options for tourism and hospitality and now has instituted a number of innovation changes after seeking input from leaders throughout the industry. The new 16-month program with the “Earn to Learn” approach is being well received by businesses and prospective students from throughout the Black Hills region.

Tom Johnson, President and CEO of Elevate Rapid City, is excited about the new program and noted benefits for employers and students.

“Black Hills State University is not only providing education in a key industry, but also creating opportunities for students to get real-life experience.  When students create relationships and connections in the industry they want to get into, doors open, and those door turn into careers.”

Representatives from major hospitality companies in South Dakota — LIV Hospitality, Regency, and Lamont, as well as representatives from the S.D. Department of Tourism, Black Hills Badlands & Lakes Association, Visit Spearfish, Visit Rapid City, are part of that planning process.  That committee will advise the university about class content and requirements, as well as offer internship opportunities for students in the program.  Students will complete 600 internship hours plus an extra give hours of fun to create the “605 Internship Experience”.

If you are interested in the program or discussing ways that your business may be able to connect, contact Nelson at or by phone at 605-718-4088.

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