Florida International University has appointed Michael Cheng dean of the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton made the announcement.
“In just over two years as interim dean, Michael has demonstrated energetic leadership to define Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management’s identity, vision and strategy; a knack for building and growing relationships with our industry partners; and the curiosity and creativity to develop new learning methods and approaches for the benefit of our students,” said Ken Furton. “Dean Cheng is elevating the Chaplin School to record levels of performance for our learners, hotel and hospitality industry partners, at home and abroad.”
“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead and collaborate with the very best group of talented faculty, staff, alumni, hotel, food & beverage and hospitality industry partners such as Marriott and Carnival Corporation to help develop America’s next generation of hospitality leaders,” said Cheng. “The Chaplin School’s combination of classroom, online and experiential learning programs offers the most dynamic and impactful curricula available—allowing our students to participate in world-renowned hospitality events, such as the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.”
Cheng brings to his new position more than 20 years of senior leadership experience in culinary, hotel and hospitality management. He was previously interim dean of the Chaplin School, a position in which he experienced significant success and held since 2017. He previously held the position of associate professor and director, food and beverage program at FIU’s Chaplin School.
FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management has experienced dramatic success in multiple areas under Cheng’s leadership. The four-year graduation rate for students rose to 52 percent against a national average of 30-40 percent. Wages for Chaplin graduates have also increased during that time, while the average estimated cost of student attendance decreased from $13,000 to $8,000. In the past two years, Cheng brought innovative and experiential classes called PODS (Program on Demand) to the hospitality school and increased alumni engagement globally. He helped elevate the Chaplin School’s reputations and rankings, with the Chaplin School now ranked as one of the top 50 Hospitality & Tourism Management programs in the QS World Rankings 2019. It is also ranked No. 1 for its Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management degree within the southeastern United States and has maintained a No. 1 ranking for its online programs. While as interim dean, Cheng has also been a successful fundraiser for the Chaplin School, exceeding a $4 million dollar goal in his first six months, $5.6 million in his second year and is well on the way to this year’s $9 million dollar goal.
Cheng is also responsible for increasing the school’s presence at the world-renowned Food Network and Cooking Channel South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBEWFF®), helping to increase university-wide student participation. He actively forged relationships with hospitality and tourism industry partners, including Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Marriott and Carnival Corporation, among others.
In 1991, Cheng came to the U.S. as an international student from his native Malaysia and received his bachelor’s degree in food service administration and a master’s degree in nutritional science and dietetics at Nebraska-Lincoln University. He received his Ph.D. degree in hospitality management from Iowa State University. In 2001, Cheng created the only curriculum that blends culinary arts and food science, Culinology®, and has since launched three Culinology® programs worldwide and continues to play an active role in chairing the higher education committee for the Research Chefs Association.
Cheng started at FIU as the Chaplin School’s associate professor and director of food & beverage programs. He was also instrumental in establishing FIU’s first food incubator, StartUP FIU FOOD. Prior to joining FIU, Cheng served as visiting professor and earlier as external examiner for the School of Culinary Arts and Food Studies at Taylor’s University of Malaysia. Before this he was founding department chair and director for Southwest Minnesota State University’s Department of Culinary and Hospitality Management. Cheng and his family reside in North Miami, Florida.