Hospitality and Tourism Management research receives diversity and inclusion seed grant
April 4, 2022
In 2020, during the period of civil unrest in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, numerous destination management organizations posted online declarations of support for those protesting racial injustice nationwide. Whether they were full-fledged diversity and inclusion statements or simple social media gestures of support, each organization handled its messaging in a distinctive manner.
How were these messages received? Were they viewed as legitimate statements of support, or acts of lip service? Those are the questions that the proposed research, “Online Allies? Exploring the Black Traveler’s Perspective on the Legitimacy of the Tourism Industry’s Racial Injustice Advocacy Initiatives,” aims to answer.
Spearheaded by Charis Tucker, a Ph.D. student in the Howard Feiertag Department of Hospitality and Tourism at the Pamplin College of Business, the research proposal was recently awarded an Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) Diversity & Inclusion Seed Investment, the first grant of its kind for Pamplin. The research will be done in partnership with Virginia State University, a historically Black land-grant university in Petersburg, Virginia.
“This seed grant has given us the resources, both financially and in time, to focus on a partnership with Virginia State, something we have been wanting to do for several years,” explained Nancy McGehee, professor in the Howard Feiertag Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management and co-editor of the Journal of Travel Research. McGehee serves as Tucker’s doctoral advisor.
“I am excited to have this opportunity,” said Tucker. “Not only to continue this work with my advisor but to also work with a fellow land-grant institution. Developing these partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities is incredibly important.”
Tucker’s interest in the intersection of race and travel stemmed from her own experiences.
“I was fortunate to have parents who enjoyed and saw the benefits of travel, so it was a natural part of my upbringing,” she said. “However, years ago, I joined a travel club and heard lots of stories from friends and associates about a lack of travel opportunities. As a Black traveler and researcher, I wanted to know more. It’s exciting to be involved at a time of increased recognition of Black people in travel and tourism spaces along with the recognition that the tourism industry can help make things better. I want to do what I can to help the travel industry create positive tourism experiences for Black travelers.”
Tucker said she is excited to explore social advocacy, how it relates to destination management organizations, and what it all means in a social media world.
“I believe this work is beneficial in an academic setting, but even more so in a practical and applied setting for the tourism industry,” she added. “This is an opportunity to help organizations shape their messaging moving forward. The research will help gain insight on what resonates and what does not resonate with the very audience they are seeking to support.”
McGehee is excited about what the research and the grant mean to Pamplin.
“The grant reflects well on Dean Robert Sumichrast and Pamplin,” she explained. “Dean Sumichrast highlighted the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) by emphasizing DEIB in the strategic plan.”
She continued, “This grant shows that DEIB is a priority, as we are operationalizing what has been prioritized in the strategic plan. Given this is the first grant of its type for Pamplin, this will get the larger university community’s attention as well.”
Referring to the seed grant, Tucker said, “I believe this is the first step toward a series of projects that we can build upon.”