Prof. Chekitan Dev, hotel administration, doesn’t like to just teach and research in Ithaca. He prefers to “engage in the world’s experiences.”
That preference is evident in Dev’s career path. Dev — named one of the top 25 most extraordinary minds in sales and marketing by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International in 2009 — fills his office’s walls with more than 46 frames featuring photos of his work, spanning more than 75 U.S. and international companies over his 38-year career.
Outside of his teaching career, Dev is also a consultant who regularly travels abroad to advise U.S. and international companies. By mixing classroom service with real work in industry, Dev says he brings experiences to the hotel school that other professional schools lack.
“The problem in many professional schools is that you either have professors with just pure academic training or professors from the real world without any advanced academic training, so the former have trouble connecting their teaching to the real world and the latter end up telling a bunch of ‘war stories’ that don’t hang together with a good theory,” Dev said.
Dev told The Sun he has “engaged with the industry” at least once per week in his 29 years of teaching at Cornell. He called his industry experience “an essential part of his work” and said he works to “incorporate these experiences into his classroom teachings.”
Dev divides his work for these companies into four categories — teaching, consulting, speaking as a keynote at conferences and serving as an expert witness.
Under teaching, Dev holds workshops for company executives who are looking for ways to “improve their business practices and institute new changes to reflect changes in consumer trends.”
“I’m constantly connecting with business to make my classes current and relevant. In my case, if you’re teaching hotel management and you’re just stuck in Ithaca, it’s very hard to know what’s going on out in the field,” he said. “So when I go out into the field, I do two things — I go out to teach, but I also go out to learn about challenges and opportunities facing managers.”
Having served corporate, government, education, advisory, legal and private equity organizations in more than 40 countries and six continents, Dev has consulted companies like Disney, Hilton, Four Seasons Mumbai, Dolce Canada, Ritz Hotel Paris and many more.
“My relationship [with Disney] started when a senior Disney manager attended one of my sessions as part of our General Managers programs at Cornell came up to me after class and asked me to come talk to his team about what I had presented,” Dev said.
Dev said he helped Disney’s executive team brainstorm new ways to “essentially understand the big picture.”
“We talked about global trends in the hospitality industry and best practices and about what was going on — some of the new developments and changes that were happening, including new research — because Disney wanted to know what was new, what was interesting and how they could change their business model to reflect these new changes,” Dev said.
In addition to Disney, Dev has also worked for companies in Europe, including HOTUSA Spain, PlanHotels Italy and Zatisi Czech Republic, and in Asia, including Taj India, Imperial Delhi and YUM Malaysia.
“It’s amazing how common the problems are for these companies,” he said. “A lot of the businesses have very similar challenges, including how to get new customers, how to keep old customers, how to ensure that customers are happy and how to fight the competition.”
Dev said that Taj India asked him and two other Cornell professors — a finance professor and a human resources professor — to create a 10 day program for 40 Taj general managers in four different locations in India, including Mumbai, Pune, Lonavala and Chennai.
“At Taj, we brought our Cornell education to these general, senior and assistant managers through our executive education office,” he said. “So basically, we trained them on marketing, finance, strategy and how to manage and motivate employees.”
Companies also frequently fly Dev in to their respective headquarters to testify on their behalf as an expert witness, he said.
“If there is a legal dispute between companies and hotels, my role as an expert witness is to explain the subject matter to the court,” he said. “I once helped secure a $10 million-judgement for the owner of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Bali, Indonesia against its management.”
In addition to testifying, Dev has also worked for the Indian, Austrian, Jordanian, Jamaican and Aruban governments.
“In a lot of countries across the world, the government plays a major role in promoting tourism and hospitality,” he said. “For example, in Aruba, the Minister of Tourism sat in the front row, while I spoke at a conference on hospitality trends and offered my ideas on hospitality and tourism practices in their country.”
Dev calls his research, teaching and consulting “indispensable” to one another and said that he “would be bored to death” if he “did not do all three jobs.”
“Because I teach, I think I am a better consultant who can explain things clearly. Because I teach, I think I am a better researcher because I focus on asking questions to which my students want answers. Because I do research, I think I am a better teacher because I have something new and interesting to share in the classroom,” Dev said. “Because I do research, I think I am a better consultant, since I’m doing work that’s creating knowledge with impact and because I consult, I am both a better researcher and teacher, since I get to ask questions with both intellectual and pedagogical value.”