Nicholas J. Thomas, interim associate director of the School of Hospitality Leadership at DePaul University, has been promoted to director of the school and associate professor with tenure effective July 1. He succeeds Misty Johanson, who was named dean of the DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business on March 1.
In his new role, Thomas will oversee the school’s academic programs, industry outreach and centers, including the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation Center for Student Development and Engagement, which he has directed since it was established in 2016.
“I am confident that under Nick’s leadership the school is in good hands and its reputation as Chicago’s premier hospitality business program will continue to grow,” Johanson says.
Thomas’s passion for the hospitality industry began when he was a teenaged bellman in a Baltimore hotel near his home town of Ellicott City, Md. After finishing high school, he earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). He worked in hotel operations while in college and, after becoming a hotel employee trainer, developed a strong interest in hospitality teaching and research.
Thomas completed master’s and PhD degrees in hospitality administration at UNLV and was chair of academic affairs for the UNLV’s Singapore campus hospitality program. In 2011, Nicholas and his wife, Lisa Thomas, who also earned a PhD in hospitality administration from UNLV, both joined the faculty of DePaul’s School of Hospitality Leadership, which is part of DePaul’s business college.
Thomas’s teaching and research interests include human resource management, generation Y hospitality employees and the casino and entertainment industry. He is excited to lead the school and continue creating real-world learning opportunities for its students through the school’s strong industry partnerships.
“I feel really confident that what we do inside the classroom is solid, it’s rigorous,” he says. “The students are acquiring knowledge and figuring out how to apply that knowledge. But I think what differentiates us is what we do outside of the classroom—how we do industry job recruitment, the kind of personalized career guidance that the (Marriott) center provides, the mentorships that faculty and industry offer students, and the half-dozen student clubs we have.
“For a program of our size, I think we have an extremely large footprint in the hospitality industry.”
By Robin Florzak