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Left to right: Dr Michael Cheng, Dean, School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, Florida International University; Dr Mark B. Rosenberg, President, Florida International University; Mr Adam Stewart, Executive Chairman, Sandals Resorts International; Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor, The University of the West Indies; Professor Dale Webber, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus and Brian Jardim, son of the late Gordon “Butch” Stewart.

In recognition of its 40th anniversary and to honour the legacy of its founder, the late Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, Sandals Resorts International (SRI) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and Florida International University’s (FIU) Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management to create the Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart International School of Hospitality & Tourism.

The new school will be built at the Western Jamaica Campus of The University of the West Indies, Mona in the tourism capital of Montego Bay, the birthplace of the Sandals brand. Through innovative technology and by leveraging the Universities’ powerful network and reach across the Caribbean and internationally, regional and international students will benefit from high-quality academic tutelage and practical experience in a range of hospitality and tourism programmes.

Speaking on the significance of the partnership, SRI’s Executive Chairman, Adam Stewart, said, “Creating opportunity through education is fundamental to our organisation and to the successful future of the Caribbean, as it is to all people seeking a better life for themselves and their families. This conviction, so deeply held by my father, was fostered by experience and in long conversations begun so many years ago with the great Professor, Sir Hilary Beckles. This partnership is so deeply meaningful and the work ahead extremely vital. Sandals has proven that what is born of this region can successfully compete against any brand on an international stage. Now, together with powerhouses The UWI and my alma mater FIU – two world-leading academic institutions, we embark upon building the world’s premier institute for tourism, the Caribbean’s economic engine. This is truly, a dream come true.”

Stewart also spoke of the transformative power of tourism for Caribbean economies, saying, “Tourism is the single most powerful industry across the Caribbean and its ability to connect with and impact wider industries and subsequently Caribbean economies is often under-appreciated. This partnership and this school is an obvious investment in the education of Caribbean people but beyond that it is also an investment in Caribbean tourism and the many other critical industries that we support. This investment will go a far way towards mapping the pathway for the survival of the region. Hundreds of thousands of Caribbean nationals depend on tourism, whether directly or indirectly. This school is an investment in our young people, in the future of the Caribbean and represents our understanding of the critical role of tourism in the future of the region.”

A cutting-edge, research-led facility, the Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart International School of Hospitality & Tourism will provide students with an immersive, holistic world-class learning and training experience by marrying the academic excellence synonymous with The UWI and FIU with the groundbreaking innovation and world-leading hospitality standards that have come to trademark the Sandals brand.

The Institution, touted as the 21st century symbol of the ideal relationship between the private sector, academia and civil society is poised to become the flagship centre of hospitality and tourism in the region and will also focus on providing meaningful learning experiences for students outside the classroom.

Stewart shared, “My father believed in learning by experience – ‘on-the-job training,’ as he often put it. As a consummate entrepreneur and a lifelong dreamer, he knew success was born beyond the boardroom, found instead in moments of exploration and discovery. It is this understanding that will inspire the world-class curriculum, putting students in real-world experiences as part of their development.”

The partnership embraces the core objectives of increasing access to globally ranked education, improving alignment with critical and influential industry needs and aspirations, demonstrating agility and responsiveness to the challenges of tourism and hospitality education and practice and delivering focused academic leadership and quality assurance processes, consistent with the Universities’ respective policies, standards and procedures.

Commenting on the landmark collaboration and its implication for regional development, Vice-Chancellor, The University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said, “Tourism is our number one business in the Caribbean and The UWI is its number one university. FIU has been a respected partner to Caribbean people and institutions for decades and in particular, counts many distinguished Jamaicans among its graduates and professors. It follows therefore that the three of us should collaborate to ensure our individual and collective oneness. The Sandals brand and its product, are excellent and exquisite. The UWI is honoured to work with Adam Stewart, its leader, to celebrate the respected legacy of his father, the brilliant Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart. The idea of building up a first class tourism and hospitality school within The UWI to honour this legend is at once exciting and energizing. The UWI-Sandals-FIU engagement is therefore a powerful and progressive partnership that will serve our region very well in the years ahead.”

His sentiments were shared by President of the Florida International University, Dr. Mark B. Rosenberg who added, “We are proud to partner with Sandals Resorts International and The University of West Indies, two highly respected institutions in the Caribbean and both leaders in the hospitality industry. At FIU, we already welcome international students from the Caribbean from 20 different countries. Offering even more students, the opportunity to study, learn and live in two hospitality destinations learning and working from iconic leading institutions and brands like Sandals, The UWI and FIU, is historic. We also need to acknowledge SRI Executive Chairman Adam Stewart BS ’03, who has followed in his father’s footsteps in business, leadership and generosity. This partnership will create a perfect avenue for students looking to advance their hospitality education in two of the top tourist destinations in the world, resulting in a new generation of hospitality leaders.”

The Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart International School of Hospitality & Tourism will not only offer a number of existing programmes, including the BSc in Tourism Management and the PhD in Tourism/Hospitality but will also offer newly developed programmes such as the BSc in Hospitality Operations, the BSc in Attractions and Events Management and Master of Science programmes in Hospitality Management and Events Management from Florida International University.

Stewart shared, “My dad spent much of his life pioneering and building the regional tourism industry. There truly is no better way to celebrate his legacy than by working with The UWI and FIU to ensure the sustainable development of the region’s tourism through training and investment in our young talent. I know this project would have made him so happy and we cannot wait to cut the ribbon and officially welcome our first cohort of students.”