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Skills learned through hospitality and tourism management program translate to SGA

cj mitchell


As the newly elected president of the Student Government Association at Western Carolina University, C.J. Mitchell believes that the skills he is learning through the management, leadership, and hospitality and tourism management programs will serve him well in his role representing the university’s student body.

“In a lot of classes in the College of Business, you’re tasked with giving presentations and advocating on behalf of something. Whether it’s a product or a business, you’re trying to convince a crowd of individuals why they should ‘buy in.’ Ultimately, the university is a type of business, as well,” said Mitchell, a rising senior from Charlotte.

“As SGA president, that’s a huge part in my job – advocating for students and enhancing the student experience by ‘selling’ administrators on changes that students want to see. I am able to take those skills from the classroom and now apply them in real time, and by doing it in the classroom for a grade, that has allowed me to feel more comfortable to do it on this scale,” he said.

Mitchell, who served as SGA vice president for the 2022-2023 academic year, said that he plans to go on to graduate school to earn his master’s degree in business administration after completing his bachelor’s degree in management, with double minors in hospitality and tourism management and in leadership.

“I hope to start in a collegiate athletics department doing either development or fundraising, with my end goal becoming an athletics director at a college or university,” he said. “I have always had a passion for business and sports since I was a little kid. After coming to college and being exposed to country clubs, I found an unknown love for hospitality and tourism and what hospitality truly means.”

Mitchell credits the WCU hospitality and tourism management faculty with helping prepare him to take on the responsibilities of SGA presidency and for the rigors of graduate school, pointing to traveling to a conference in San Diego, receiving numerous professional resources and connections, obtaining certification in lodging, and experiencing field trips and guest speakers.

“In my events class, it was the first time I was asked to plan an event with a team from top to bottom,” he said. “I was able to walk away with so many new qualities after taking that class, as well as new memories. It’s really hard to pick one professor when so many have had an impact on my time here at WCU.”

Coursework in management, human resource management and leadership also have helped Mitchell develop skills that will be valuable in his role as SGA president and his future educational and career goals, he said.

“My advice to prospective students is to be open to new possibilities because being in the College of Business will provide you with many,” he said. “I also would say don’t be afraid to double major. What I find amazing about this college is that all your core classes are the same, so it allows for more flexibility to pick up an extra major. You also become a well-rounded student by taking classes from a lot of other College of Business majors such as marketing, business law, accounting, finance, economics and more, which helps make you a more well-rounded candidate when applying to jobs.”

Mitchell’s professors say they have high expectations for his tenure as SGA president – and beyond.

student leaders

Western Carolina University student leaders attending a meeting of the University of North Carolina System Association of Student Governments hosted by UNC Pembroke include, from left, Justin Walhart, Eliana Cruz, C.J. Mitchell and Estefany Gordillo-Rivas.

“In one of my classes, students learned how to organize events, and C.J. was one of the leaders of the team that organized a Christmas party for the faculty and staff of the College of Business,” said Cherry Brewer, assistant professor of hospitality and tourism management. “He was a great leader, thoughtful and very creative. His team organized many activities that brought laughs and joy to all participants. He also showed enthusiasm for the project and genuine caring for his team. I am delighted that C.J. will serve as the new SGA president. With his hospitality mind, I believe he will be a great leader who thrives on generating positive changes for WCU communities.”

Ethan Cheng, assistant professor of hospitality and tourism management, taught Mitchell’s class in “Lodging and Resort Management.” “In this course, I offered students a Certification in Hotel Industry Analytics (CHIA) training program. C.J. passed the CHIA exam and earned the certification. A CHIA-certified student shows the ability to analyze and interpret hotel data, such as research, presentation and data analysis skills, and become a good hotel manager to operate a property and lead a team, with leadership and financial skills,” Cheng said.

As SGA president, Mitchell serves as an ex-officio member of the Western Carolina University Board of Trustees. He took the oath of office Monday, April 17.

Going into his senior year, Mitchell said he is thankful that he decided to enroll at WCU and study in the College of Business. “Overall, WCU has become a place I can never forget. I’ve been blessed with many opportunities. There are so many individuals I need to thank for supporting me and helping guide me through this chapter in my life, including my closest friends I met while in SGA, my fraternity brothers in Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, my roommates, advisers, professors and many, many more,” he said.

“I couldn’t be where I am without some amazing people whom I’ve met since being here at Western. This takes me into my last piece of advice – don’t be afraid to say hello to someone because they may just be the person or friend you’ve been missing in your life,” Mitchell said.

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