Visiting scholars bring new ideas and energy to the Center for Hospitality Research

A group of visiting scholars have brought an international flair to the Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) during this academic year, both in terms of academic scholarship and cultural enrichment. As part of its program to extend its global reach, the CHR has sponsored two researchers from Spain, one from South Korea, and one from China, as well as a scholar from across town. The results have been favorable for all parties, both in terms of academics and on a personal level.


This year the CHR welcomed Ángel Peiró-Signes and María-del-Val "Marival" Segarra-Oña, who are both on the faculty of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain; from Korea comes HyunJeong "Spring" Han, who was a lecturer at Kyonggi University in Seoul; Ming Cheng, visiting from Beijing, China, is studying for her PhD from Rutgers during her time as a visiting scholar; and Michael McCall, chair of Ithaca College's business department, will be in residence at Cornell later in this academic year.


"One great result of our partners' support of the CHR is the fact that we can sponsor these visiting scholars," said Professor Rohit Verma, CHR's executive director. "I was pleased that the international visitors took full advantage of both our professional support and the personal opportunities open to visitors to this country."


This year’s scholars continue a growing tradition. Former visiting scholars have remained in touch with the CHR as research associates, including Youakim Badr, who is now an associate professor of computer science with the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Lyon, France, and Gabriele Piccoli, who is an associate professor of information systems at the University of Sassari in Italy. Piccoli will soon return as a visiting scholar to work on social media research with Senior Lecturer Bill Carroll.

The international scholars were delighted at the opportunity to come to the United States and to Cornell. "For me, Cornell was always a dream," said Han. "In high school I wanted to study abroad, but it wasn’t until I earned my PhD that I had the opportunity to travel here." Her opening was last year's QUIS 12 conference, focusing on quality in service, which was held at SHA. "I saw the call for papers, sent in my research, and came for the conference," she recalled.


"We were interested in coming to the U.S. for several reasons," said Segarra. "We wanted to learn how things work in a top U.S. university so that we can bring back ideas to Spain, but we also were interested in seeing another culture and getting more exposure to speaking and writing in English." Peiró and Segarra met Professors Rohit Verma and Linda Canina at a conference in Valencia, and their proposed visit lined up with their sabbatical openings.


Even as they have added to the CHR's research effort, the visitors have taken advantage of the opportunity to see the U.S.A. Han, for instance, took a tourist flight over the Grand Canyon. She started her time in the U.S. at Michigan State University, and from there she moved to Ithaca. "After I presented at QUIS, I wanted to come to Cornell to do research," she recalls. Appointed as a visiting scholar, Han soon experienced one of the big differences between the U.S. and her native Korea. "I drove to Ithaca from Michigan—11 hours—with my luggage and my cat," she said. "I’ve never had such a long driving trip. In that time, I could easily crisscross Korea." Also unexpected was last summer’s 100-degree weather. "I’ve never seen temperatures like that," she added.


Peiró and Segarra brought their children, who were initially dubious about moving here. After an adjustment period, they have gotten used to an unfamiliar language and situation and are enjoying the U.S. Among other activities, the family has had the opportunity to see the sights. "We went to Disney World in Orlando, which we all enjoyed, and we also are visiting Niagara Falls, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Boston," said Peiró.


Professionally, Peiró and Segarra have produced both a Cornell Hospitality Report and an article in the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly (CHQ), based on their research on the revenue effects of implementing the ISO 14001 environmental standard. Han's research also has resulted in a Cornell Hospitality Report and a CHQ article examining the effects of specific types of corporate culture and management strategy on hotels' financial performance.


Cheng's PhD work includes collaborating with Professor Chris Anderson to study search engine marketing, with special attention to China’s hospitality industry. McCall's work focuses on hotel loyalty programs. He has published frequently through the CHR as well as numerous other academic outlets.


The scholars acknowledge the professional support they received at Cornell. "When I proposed to come here, I said, 'Here’s how I can help,'" said Han. "But Professor Verma is a real expert and has been extremely helpful." For their part, Peiró and Segarra appreciated the rich data sources available through the CHR and through the Nestlé Library at the School of Hotel Administration.


When their time at Cornell ends, Peiró and Segarra look forward to a few more weeks in the U.S. before they return to their academic positions in Valencia. Twenty years ago, Peiró spent time as a high school student in a small town in western New York. That experience did not prepare him for the diversity he has found in Ithaca, which is not that much larger. Added Segarra: "We have found so many nice, friendly, helpful people, and we have enjoyed many professional and personal activities."


Among the personal activities are office potluck dinners, which have allowed the visitors to share their cuisine with appreciative Americans. Han makes excellent pot stickers, and Peiró and Segarra brought a marvelous Valencian-style paella to one of the office meals.

For Han, the future is wide open. She is pursuing further international opportunities in the United Kingdom and Russia as well as other positions in the U.S. "I appreciate the support of the CHR staff," Han concluded. "And I loved the potluck dinners."