Hospitality Scholar Dipra Jha earns DEI excellence award

Closeup of Dipra Jha
Dipra Jha, center, receives the 2023 Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award during the Western Federation CHRIE conference in Las Vegas (photo by Jessica Murray).

Carson College of Business Associate Professor Dipra Jha was recently recognized with the Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award from the Western Federation Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education.

Jha, who is also assistant director of the Washington State University School of Hospitality Business Management, has spent most of his career embracing what he feels is a responsibility to advance DEI in academia and the world. The award honors his efforts to develop significant diverse and inclusive environments in hospitality and tourism education and business communities.

“This recognition from my peers means a lot to me,” said Jha. “It also shines a light on inclusive pedagogy in business education, which is something I deeply care about.”

Jha launched his career in India with an internship at a luxury hotel when he was a sophomore in college. He enjoyed working with people and developed a passion for the hospitality industry. After several years, he attended graduate school in the U.S. and fell in love with higher education.

Lack of DEI perspective inspires teaching strategies

A few years into teaching, he began to notice a lack of diverse perspectives in both curriculum and content. This observation motivated his thinking about how to incorporate DEI in his courses. He uses reflective-based learning to promote dialogue and diversity within the classroom, regardless of whether his classes are in person or remote.

A passionate advocate for experiential learning and global education, Jha developed International Relations and Global Leadership, a WSU business class available to students in Kosovo and Ukraine through WSU’s Global Campus. Student cohorts engage in peer-to-peer interaction and case studies to develop global competencies such as intercultural communication and critical thinking. 

In 2019, Jha was conferred a Doctor Honoris Causa by the Kyiv Cooperative Institute of Business and Law in Ukraine for his outstanding contributions to international education through virtual exchange.

Rewarding student feedback affirms DEI efforts

Jha also has significant experience developing and leading study abroad programs. In 2022, he created a Carson College study abroad program in Dubai in partnership with the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management.

“Very few American students study abroad in the Middle East,” he said. “The destination is culturally very different than our European locations and challenges students to examine stereotypes and misunderstandings about this part of the world.”

Jha points to student feedback from the Dubai trip as one of the most rewarding experiences related to his DEI efforts.

“After finishing a tour and cultural experience at the iconic Burj Al Arab, one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, an African American female student shared these thoughts,” he said. “Professor, thank you for bringing us here. My entire life, I thought the best I could do is become a chef at a good restaurant in the town I grew up in. After this experience, my dreams have become infinitely bigger, and I can see myself in a place like this.”

Before coming to WSU, Jha was an associate professor of practice and the director of Global Engagement for the Hospitality, Restaurant, and Tourism Management program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He has also been an invited professor in residence at the Venetian mega resort in Las Vegas, with the Jumeirah Group in Dubai, and with Oberoi Hotels and Resorts in India. 

“As a person of color, much of my thinking on DEI has been influenced by lived experiences,” he said. “I’ve also been influenced through traveling and building lasting relationships with people from diverse backgrounds. I believe in a society where people feel welcome and empowered. Universities are microcosms of the larger society, and land-grant institutions like WSU have a special duty to advance DEI through learning, discovery, and outreach.”

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