Studying Sustainable Tourism Management at Paul Smith’s College, with Professor Joe Conto, Professor Eric Holmlund, and Associate Professor Kelly Cerialo

Episode 290

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Professor Joe Conto:

JoeConto is a Professor at Paul Smith’s College in the Northern Adirondacks of New York State. He has nearly 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry in all facets, from food & beverage and events to high-end lodging and country club management. After visiting the Frankenstein Wax Museum in Lake George, New York, he proclaimed that he wanted to live in a tourist town for the rest of his life. His hospitality industry career has allowed him to fulfill that dream with stops in Las Vegas, Martha’s Vineyard, Old Montreal, Jupiter Island, and now, Lake Placid. For the last 15 years, he has shared his knowledge of the industry with students and connected them with the broad range of career choices available to those interested in the world of hospitality and tourism through experiences both in and out of the classroom. Outside of his academic life, Professor Conto also teaches and performs improv comedy at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and Montreal Improv Theatre.

Professor Eric Holmlund:

Ph.D. in Environmental Studies, Director of Graduate Studies, Instructor of Sustainable Nature Based Tourism

Dr. Eric Holmlund is a member of the Graduate Faculty and Department of Environment and Society at Paul Smith’s College. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England, an M.S. in Teaching from SUNY Potsdam, an M.S. Ed. in Outdoor Recreation from Southern Illinois University, and a B.A. in English from Dartmouth College. From 2000 to 2019, Eric founded and directed the Adirondack Watershed Institute Stewardship Program, which is New York State’s largest aquatic invasive species spread prevention and education program dedicated to protecting the natural heritage of Adirondack rivers, ponds, and lakes. Since 2014, Eric has co-directed a collaboration between Paul Smith’s College and the Tosco-Emiliano Biosphere Reserve in northern Italy, focused on sustainable tourism and community identity. He has served as a wilderness recreation leadership instructor for Outward Bound and the Wilderness Education Association. He is a steering committee member of the Paul Smith’s College Global Center for Rural Communities and the Champlain Adirondack Biosphere Network (UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program).

Associate Professor Kelly Cerialo:

Dr. Kelly L. Cerialo is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator in the Business and Hospitality Department at Paul Smith’s College and Program Coordinator for the new Master’s in Sustainable Tourism. She is the Co-chair of the UNESCO Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve (New York/Vermont), a steering committee member for the U.S. UNESCO Biosphere Network, and founder/focal point for the U.S. Biosphere Reserve Youth Network. She coordinates international student exchanges with a focus on sustainable tourism and community development in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Italy, Canada, South Africa, and the U.S. She is the co-founder of the Adirondack to Appeninno Sustainable Parks and Communities Project – an international sustainable tourism initiative between the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano Biosphere Reserve in Italy and the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve. Kelly received the David H. Chamberlain Excellence in Teaching Award in 2019 and Faculty Member of the Year at Paul Smith’s College in 2018. Kelly has presented at United Nations and UNESCO conferences in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Africa. Kelly has a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, a Master’s in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, a Master’s in Communication Management from the Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor’s in Public Relations/Mass Media Communication from The College of New Jersey. Research interests include the social impacts of tourism and sustainable tourism in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with three college professors — Professor Joe Conto, Professor Eric Holmlund, and Associate Professor Kelly Cerialo. This week’s discussion focuses on sustainable tourism and how it links into the new Master’s program that Paul Smith’s College offers. My guests share the inspiration behind launching the new program and their vision for how it will support the long-term professional education of those in the travel and tourism space.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why everyone is so excited about the new Master’s program in Sustainable Tourism Management
  • Why sustainability is a thread that’s woven through many of the courses at Paul Smith’s College
  • Who the program is for, including mid-career professionals and people newly out of their undergraduate education who want to gain an environmental credential
  • When you can apply to the new Master’s program
  • The importance of balancing out the social, economic, and environmental impacts of tourism
  • How the current Paul Smith’s College students are receiving the idea of this new program
  • What sparked the idea and gave the team their inspiration for the new program

Studying Sustainable Tourism Management

What’s unique about the model that Paul Smith’s College has built for their brand new Sustainable Tourism Management Master’s is that it is a low residency model which enables people from various backgrounds and industries to join. Professor Kelly describes the types of students that they are expecting to enroll in the new degree, from mid-career professionals interested in learning more about sustainability who may or may not currently work in the tourism sector, to entrepreneurs working in a tourist destination who are interested to learn more about sustainability, to recent graduates in the travel and tourism sector.

Sustainability is a Headline Theme

Sustainability is something that the current students at Paul Smith’s College have in mind all the time. Professor Kelly shares more about why the upcoming generation of travel and tourism professionals is drawn to sustainability as a headline theme.

Professor Paul shares his discussions with former students who are out in the workforce about their interest in returning to further study, focusing on sustainability because it is an area they see as the future but also personally important to them. One of the most significant shifts he has seen over the last 10-12 years is the genuine belief that sustainability is a necessity in every industry.

Inspiration for the New Program

Professor Eric discusses why Paul Smith College is launching the Sustainable Tourism Management Master’s and why they feel that now is the right moment to include the new program in the offering. All three guests share their pleasure that sustainability really is a leading issue in the consciousness, psyche, and future strategy of students graduating in the last ten years. They highlight that sustainability is more than a buzzword; it’s a strategy for both surviving and flourishing into the future.


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