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.
I will have to agree that Mr. Montague is truly an agent of change. He impacted my life as a 2008 Temple graduate in the STHM program. I am forever grateful of his honesty, support and influence.
I was a student of Mr. Montague’s 21 years ago when it all started as a freshman. I was pregnant with my son. This was tough but I managed to make it to my senior year with Mr. Montague’s tough love. I was scared of him at one time but I do remember saying to myself, “If I don’t do this Jeff is going to be mad at me or disappointed.” This is what kept me strong. I don’t think I ever told him that before. Next, I had a major crisis in my senior year. I was almost done. I got the most disturbing phone call from my brother while attending my senior seminar class. My uncle who had raised me had just had a heart attack and died. I was devistated. I left school. With the liitle voice in the back of my head hearing Mr. Montague’s voice of encouragement, I came back to school a few years later. I started the journey again. The nxt thing you know a bomb hit me again. My grandmother who was the center of my entire universe had passed away. I said to myself, lord what is going on? Am I being tested? This was it for me. I could not focus or concentrate. Again, I left school. This time I stayed gone for 9years. I had a career in the the police department and I had graduated from some trade schools during this period, my life was going well. I did’nt feel the need to come back to Temple but I always felt a void. Something was missing. I heard that voice again ringing in my head. It was Mr. Montague. Funny because I had no idea that he was still a part of Temple’s staff after all the years that had gone by. Finally I knew what I had to do. I found Mr. Montague and emailed him and said I need to come back and finish my degree. This was the beginning of the end of my void. I am now enrolled at Temple again and this time I know that I am going to complete the goal I set over 20 years ago. Thank you Jeff, you are the best!!