Draped above the desk of Jeffrey Montague, assistant dean of the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, is a banner that reads: “I don’t make friends; I make alumni.”
“My students gave that to me,” Montague said with a sheepish laugh. “They know when they graduate they can be in the market for my friendship. But now, I give them what they need academically, socially, emotionally. I give them tough love because that’s what gives them direction.”
But Montague’s students must have had a hunch that their Senior Professional Development Seminar professor is a little bit of a softy. Perched atop a shelf above his banner sits another student gift – a lifelike Montague bobblehead.
“[My students] have got me to a T,” Montague said.
Montague, a Southwest Philadelphia native who has been working at Temple for 22 years, has been at the heart of STHM since he helped to lay the cornerstone 11 years ago. In addition to teaching the senior seminar, he is actively involved in the school’s recruitment, new student orientation, student professional organizations, internship placement and study abroad opportunities, among other things.
“My goal is to get [my students] to think globally,” said Montague, who requires each student to have a passport in order to pass his class. This semester, he helped a student who has never traveled beyond South Philadelphia obtain an internship with the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“[That student] said it would never have been possible without my help,” Montague said. His goal for next year is to personally raise money for students with financial need to travel abroad. “I think students appreciate that we treat everything as reachable.”
Because he works so closely with students, Montague is able to get a sense of their career interests and help place them in internships tailored to their personalities and future goals. By bringing professionals into the classroom, he acts as the students’ liaison to the tourism industry.
“We’re just opening the doors,” Montague said of his team at STHM, which has an employment rate of 100 percent. “It’s up to them to shut them.”
Montague said graduation is the time of year he is most proud, as he sees students carry their diplomas with the two qualities he has worked to instill in them – professionalism and cultural transparency.
“I was raised to see separate and not equal. But through my years of being cultured and refined, as opposed to old,” Montague said with a laugh, “I’ve learned to see the world as one, and that’s the way I want my students to see it. I want them to see all people as people.”
Maria Zankey can be reached at email@example.com.