Parker Henderson, brand director for Embassy Suites by Hilton, utilized an MSBA-HTM degree to fulfill his dream of becoming a professor. Photo courtesy of Parker Henderson.

As an undergraduate studying hospitality and tourism management, Parker Henderson ’20 was always most impressed by the professors who worked in the industry and who consequently brought their acumen into the classroom. It was those lecturers who inspired Henderson to decide that in the future he would be the person who would impart his professional knowledge to the next generation.

That future is now. A brand director for Embassy Suites by Hilton, Henderson has also served as an adjunct professor for the Pamplin College of Business since 2020. It is a position made possible by his degree from Virginia Tech's Master of Science in Business Administration – Concentration in Hospitality & Tourism Management, or MSBA-HTM.

“Once I achieved 20 years in hospitality, I knew I wanted to return to the classroom to spread the love of hospitality and tourism management,” explained Henderson. “I have a passion for the entire travel industry, and I wanted to inspire future generations and bring my real-world experience into the classroom. To achieve this personal goal, I knew I needed to pursue an advanced degree.”

In his research into post-graduate programs, Henderson said he was “happily surprised” by the engagement of the MSBA-HTM program. “I felt I made connections in the program before I even applied. I decided on Virginia Tech because of its strong program and because of its part-time nature. With classes being on nights and weekends, I was able to continue working full-time.”

Located in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area, the MSBA-HTM program allows students to earn a career-focused master's degree at their pace while continuing to work full-time. The flexible, in-person class format enables students to become active participants in classroom lectures and discussions, establish working relationships with peers, and engage with top-notch faculty and industry professionals.

“With focused classes on business strategy, human resources, revenue management, finance, organizational behavior, and others, I built a well-rounded understanding that I was able to apply outside the classroom,” said Henderson.

Being surrounded by impressive students and faculty, my soft skills – presentation, networking, and leadership – were also enhanced.”

Henderson, who lives in Washington, D.C., with his husband, Kit Glendinning ’03, shared that, while the program is flexible and geared toward working professionals, there is an adjustment associated with going back into the classroom.

“It certainly made for some very long days,” he said. “However, I could truly relate the content covered in my classes to something I was doing at work. It allowed me to enhance my performance on projects at work and made the schoolwork relatable throughout the program.”

Being a student again forced Henderson to rethink how he approached his full-time work. He was able to take lessons from the program and apply them to his job, enabling him to look at it through a different lens.

“After 20-plus years in the industry, you think you know everything, but you then realize there is so much more about the industry that you want to learn,” he added. “Being back in class as a student resets your brain to absorb more content and sparks your curiosity. I found myself wanting to know more about the tasks I was doing and had the desire to learn the ‘why.’”

Promoted to his current position with Hilton while still a student in the MSBA-HTM program, Henderson was able to tackle his new responsibilities with more confidence.

“Being a student while working full-time helps you to become more efficient at time management,” he added. “It’s exhausting but has helped me as my responsibilities at work have expanded.”

While the MSBA-HTM program allowed Henderson to fulfill a specific career goal, the program is geared toward any professional who wishes to ascend in their career or who wishes to learn more about specific facets of the hospitality industry. For anyone interested in enrolling in the MSBA-HTM program, Henderson explained that there is no better time than now.

“It will never be any easier, you won’t ever be any younger, nor will you have any more time than you do now,” he said. “There is never a better year in your future to start than now. Start with one class a semester if you’re working full time – allow yourself some time to get back in the ‘student’ mentality and continue to grow in both of your worlds.

“You’re working towards a solid degree from an amazing university.”