An interview with faculty member Lydia Hanks

January 04, 2019


                          Lydia Hanks

Dr. Lydia Hanks serves as associate professor of Hospitality Management at the Florida State University Dedman School of Hospitality. She holds a doctorate in hospitality management from Pennsylvania State University; an MBA from the University of Denver; and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.

Hanks’ research focuses on consumer behavior, services marketing, and corporate social responsibility. Her work is published regularly in leading hospitality and tourism journals. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Insights and Tourism Analysis, and as a reviewer for numerous academic journals and conferences. Her teaching areas include hospitality accounting, lodging operations, and service management.

DSH: In 2017, you received the Emerging Professional Graduate Award from the Penn State School of Hospitality Management. Would you tell us a little about your academic history, how it evolved, and how you became interested in the hospitality industry?

Hanks: My original plan in college was to get a Ph.D. in Psychology, teach at a university and open a private practice. During my senior year, however, I did an internship at a psychiatric hospital and realized that it wasn’t for me. I use this as an example for my students of the importance of interning to discover what you like and what you don’t like!

It was too late to change my major, so I graduated with the psychology degree. I decided that if I was going to shift career paths an MBA would be a useful tool, so I went to the University of Denver to study business. After graduation, I ended up working in the spa industry, very much by chance. I found out that I loved it!

I spent almost a decade managing and opening spas for various hotel companies. When I finally decided to go back to school for my Ph.D., hospitality management was an obvious fit. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to Penn State, and received a great education there.

DSH: You and a team of researchers received the Best Paper for 2018 designation from the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education (ICHRIE) and presented your work at their annual conference, July 2018. That’s an impressive award from the top organization for hospitality and tourism education. What was the experience like?

Hanks: It was humbling and inspiring at the same time. At the awards dinner, we were surrounded by the top researchers in hospitality, including many faculty members from Penn State who trained me. These are the people who built the foundation of research upon which our paper was based, so it was an incredible honor to be recognized among such a group.

DSH: What do you enjoy most about being a researcher? Also, what are your favorite areas of research and what excites you about them?

Hanks: I like the creativity. Each project is different, and before we start writing, there is a lot of design work that goes into creating the research study. I have the freedom to look at research problems in different ways, try new solutions, and experiment. That appeals to me, because it means that every study is a tiny mystery just waiting for me to find its solution.

My research area is fun for me — I research the psychology of customer decision-making in the hospitality industry. I look at which psychological and emotional factors influence a consumer’s decision-making process when he or she is traveling, dining out, or vacationing. It’s a perfect combination of my three degrees — psychology, business, and hospitality management.

DSH: You’ve been recognized for the impact you’ve had on the lives of our students with FSU’s Transformation Through Teaching and University Undergraduate Teaching awards. Is it difficult to balance being an inspiring teacher with being a successful researcher? How do the two areas compare and what do you enjoy most about teaching?

Hanks: It can be difficult, because the research is very time consuming. It’s easy to get deep into a research project and forget about the world around you, so I have to make a real effort to stay connected to my teaching and my students. I use time blocking a lot, where I devote certain days of the week only to research and certain days only to my students, so that I can be sure I’m balancing the two.

 As for how the two parts of my job compare, I would say that they are complete opposites. With research, I am working alone or with a very small group of people, usually on a research problem that is hypothetical or theoretical. With teaching, I am engaging with hundreds of students, both in class and in office hours, and we are talking about practical, real world issues such as how to answer interview questions, what to do when you get your first job in a hotel, or how to apply to grad school. I like both parts of my job, but I enjoy the teaching more. I love talking to my students, helping them grow, and watching their progress.

DSH: What course(s) are you currently teaching? What is it about the Dedman School’s programs and a career in hospitality management that you would recommend to Florida State University students?

Hanks: Currently, I teach a class called Lodging Operations and Luxury Hotels, and a class called Managing Service Organizations. I’ve taught both of them for many years and I love them. I would recommend the Dedman School and a career in hospitality management to Florida State students because I think that the foundation they will receive in our program will serve them for the rest of their lives. This program is designed to give them a huge head start in their early career, and the study abroad opportunities, networking events, career placement assistance, and quality of instruction is the best on campus!

Lydia Hanks: The basics

Title: Associate Professor, Dedman School of Hospitality, Florida State University

Degrees: Ph.D. Hospitality Management, Pennsylvania State University; MBA, University of Denver; Bachelor of Science, Psychology, University of Louisiana, Lafayette

Learn more: Lydia Hanks’ CV