Faculty interview with Dedman director Dr. Don Farr

Bob Branciforte
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Dr. Don Farr, director of the Dedman School of Hospitality and Dedman
Professor of Hospitality Management.

Don Farr serves as director of the Dedman School of Hospitality. He came to Florida State University in 2007 to direct the school’s PGA Golf Management program. In 2013, he became its assistant director. Farr also served as interim assistant dean for academic affairs at the FSU College of Business from 2015 to 2016. Prior to coming to FSU, he managed a private equity golf club and two golf resorts in the Pinehurst area of North Carolina. We asked him about his career and his vision for the Dedman School of Hospitality:

DSH: How did you first become involved in the hospitality industry? What attracted you to it?
Farr: As an undergraduate student I majored in marketing with an emphasis on professional golf management at Ferris State University, where I had the opportunity to work at Tulsa Country Club, Monroe Valley Golf Club, and Mid Pines Resort. During my 24 months of required internship, I realized I truly enjoyed working with the public and creating extraordinary experiences for club members and guests.

DSH: You may be the only director of a hospitality school to hold the rank of “Class A” PGA Professional. What are the highlights from your days as a golf professional and as a manager of golf and country clubs? How did earning an MBA fit into that experience?
Farr: My most memorable experiences as a golf professional were working with physically challenged and rehab students. I had the good fortune to work with Special Olympians, the special needs children at Camp Easter-in-the-Pines, and with elderly golfers recovering from injuries and illnesses. It was very gratifying to help a seriously injured golfer get back on the course to play with his friends and family. Earning my MBA was an integral part of my growth in both academics and the golf industry. I learned a lot in my advanced business courses and my initiative showed prospective employers I was willing to make sacrifices to better myself and increase my value.

DSH: Tell us about your decision to come to the Dedman School of Hospitality to direct its PGA Golf Management program and what you accomplished with the program. Is it true it is being replaced by the new Global Club Management & Leadership major?
Farr: One of our biggest accomplishments with the PGA program was in creating internship opportunities for our students at some of the greatest golf clubs in the world. That led to permanent employment positions for them at very high-profile clubs. We are happy the PGA recently decided to allow international internships for PGA golf management students and to make the players ability test more equitable for women. Our new Global Club Management & Leadership major is not replacing the PGA Golf Management major. The golf major is phasing out and we have created a new major focusing on the management of private clubs and resorts, including golf clubs.

DSH: In 2014, you earned a doctorate at FSU in the political economy and sustainability areas of sports management. Sustainability is a leading edge topic in both political and social discourse nowadays. How did you become interested in that area?
Farr: I became interested in sustainability while teaching for the Dedman School at the FSU Republic of Panama campus. Being there opened my eyes to issues and challenges we don’t see in the United States. Then, the more I traveled, whether it was to China or elsewhere, the more I recognized issues with the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainability. That recognition has continued to inspire me and I later created a course called Global Impacts and Sustainability in the Club Industry.

DSH: How did you come to serve the College of Business as an interim assistant dean for academic affairs in 2015? What was your experience like in that position?
Farr: I think the immediate needs of the college fit my personality — someone to work with students with challenges and to fine tune the processes in the undergraduate and graduate offices. The experience was extraordinary. I learned a tremendous amount about academics at the deans’ level — policies and procedures, how things run at Westcott, and why decisions are made.

DSH: In January of this year, two notable events occurred — you became director of the Dedman School of Hospitality and the school left the College of Business to become an independent unit of Florida State University. How did all of that come about?
Farr: The director part came about when Dr. Ohlin, after serving as director for seven years, decided to go back and write a hospitality law textbook as a faculty member. Dean Hartline gave me the choice to stay where I was or to apply for the directorship of the school. I felt that my home, and my best fit, was at the Dedman School of Hospitality. Dedman leaving the College of Business to become more independent came about when our faculty voted for an initiative to give the school more flexibility managing its curriculum and its future.

DSH: Where do you see the Dedman School heading in the future? What would you like to see as our director?
Farr: I see the Dedman School expanding in enrollment and rising in rank. We have some very exciting changes happening at the school now that we are independent. One is that we are now also offering the hospitality major at FSU’s Panama City, Fla., campus. Another is that we are planning to teach the major at FSU’s Republic of Panama campus. If feasible, I would also like to see us teaching a graduate program in the future. Our strategic plan is to continue to grow our international presence and build on our excellent relationships with hospitality organizations. That will continue to enable us to provide our students with great opportunities — domestically and internationally.

Don Farr: The basics

Title: Director of the Dedman School of Hospitality and Dedman Professor of Hospitality Management
Degrees: Ph.D., Sport Management (Political Economy and Sustainability), Florida State University, Tallahassee, Fla.; M.B.A., Campbell University, Buies Creek, N.C.; B.A. (Marketing and Professional Golf Management), Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Mich.
Learn more: Don Farr’s curriculum vitae.