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USF dean receives McCool Breakthrough Award for innovations in hospitality industry

SARASOTA – Cihan Cobanoglu, dean of the University of South Florida School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, was recognized for his innovative achievements in the hospitality industry and received the McCool Breakthrough Award for 2023.

The global award, given by the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education (ICHRIE), cited Cobanoglu’s hospitality school initiatives that expanded access to digital learners during the pandemic.

His efforts also contributed to the significant growth at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the Muma College of Business. In fall 2022, the hospitality school, based on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, expanded its programming to the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses and has seen exponential enrollment increases, due in part to its new partnerships.

The McCool Breakthrough Award is given to honorees who have demonstrated a significant breakthrough or introduced a unique approach aligned with the spirit of ICHRIE's mission. The award honors the spirit of late astronaut Willie McCool, who died in 2003 on the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Notably, Cobanoglu was recognized for:

  • Leading the creation of an online platform at USF that offered the Post-Crisis Hospitality Management Certificate. The course was free, open to the public, attracted over 15,000 participants, and fostered resilience in the hospitality industry during a challenging time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We saw an opportunity to make a difference by providing education and support to the global hospitality community," he said. "The course empowered individuals, offered valuable insights, and fostered resilience in the hospitality industry.” 

  • Establishing the USF M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation. The center has been an invaluable resource for the hospitality industry and academia by publishing and disseminating research findings, textbooks, journals, and professional reports under an open-access model. Publications have been accessed more than one million times.

"We believe that knowledge should be accessible to all, and the M3 Center has been at the forefront of promoting open access and collaborative innovation," Cobanoglu said. "Our mission is to empower the global hospitality community with cutting-edge research and resources, ultimately fostering growth and progress in the industry." 

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