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New SHA Dean Comes from Penn State

Arun Upneja has “deep understanding” of what students need

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Boston University BU, School of Hospitality Administration SHA, Dean Arun Upneja

Arun Upneja takes over as School of Hospitality Administration dean July 1. Photo courtesy of School of Hospitality Administration

Arun Upneja learned about the hospitality business from the ground up. After graduating from college, he worked for six years for Indian Hotels Company Limited in India, where he mastered the demands of running a hotel, from working the front desk to overseeing housekeeping. It took him two weeks just to learn how to properly debone a chicken, he recalls.

“It was a very grounding experience,” says Upneja, who will become the new dean of the School of Hospitality Administration July 1. “I take pride in the fact that I didn’t go straight into management. I have a grasp of the operational side of things, which gives me a higher level of credibility with my students and faculty.”

Upneja succeeds Christopher Muller, who stepped down as SHA dean last month. Gloria Waters, dean of Sargent College and a professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences, is serving as SHA dean ad interim this semester.

Upneja has spent the last 15 years at Pennsylvania State University. He currently is associate dean for academic affairs at Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College. He is also a professor of hospitality management at the School of Hospitality Management, where he established new interactive honors programming for students and faculty.

BU President Robert A. Brown says Upneja’s background makes him uniquely qualified to lead SHA.

“Arun Upneja brings an exceptionally strong record of accomplishment in his scholarly work, his teaching, and his academic administration, in addition to his experience in the hospitality industry,” says Brown. “He also has a deep global perspective that will help educate our students for the world in which they will spend their professional careers.”

“Through extensive conversations with him about his vision and ambitions for the School of Hospitality Administration,” says Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer, “it became clear that Dr. Upneja’s scholarly credentials, passion for the industry, and exceptional leadership experience are an ideal match for our needs at SHA.”

Waters was a member of the hiring committee that selected Upneja, and says she was impressed by his understanding of the skills students need to find a job in the hospitality industry. He realizes “what the curriculum must include to position students for the best possible entry-level jobs that will lead to leadership positions,” she says.

During his tenure at Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management, Upneja was professor-in-charge of international programs. In that capacity, he developed a global hospitality program that included cohorts from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hotelschool Maastricht in The Netherlands, and Penn State. He has won numerous awards for his research, including the John Wiley & Sons Lifetime Research Achievement Award in 2007 from the Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education.

His scholarly work in the field focuses on such issues as long-term debt usage by lodging firms and relative growth rates of domestic-versus-foreign earnings for publicly traded restaurants.

Upneja holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration from India’s University of Jammu. He earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management in 1991, a MBA in 1993, and a PhD in accounting in 1996, all from the University of Houston.

The new dean says he is eager to lead SHA, which every year prepares some 400 students for management positions in the hotel, food service, travel and tourism, and entertainment industries. Among the items already on his to-do list: working to leverage the strength of SHA’s advisory board to ensure that the school maximizes its Boston locale and its proximity to so many top restaurants, conference centers, and hotels.

“We all know SHA is a very high-quality program,” Upneja says. “Our curriculum needs to in part forecast what trends are taking place in the industry.”

Upneja is married and the father of two sons.

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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