University of Florida

Faculty

Ron Gromoll, CHA, CHE

Ron Gromoll

Adjunct Faculty
Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management

Email: rgromoll@hhp.ufl.edu

  • B.S. in Business, Phoenix University
  • A.A.S. in Hotel & Restaurant Management, Luzerne County Community College

Biography

Ron Gromoll is a dedicated educator who has been teaching college-level hospitality courses since 1996. He has been a Certified Hotel Administrator from the American Hotel and Lodging Association since 1990 and a Certified Hotel Educator from the American Hotel and Lodging Association since 2000.

For over 30 years, Gromoll served as the general manager of four hotels, including the Intercontinental Hotel Group, Best Western International Inc., Choice Hotels and LaQuinta Inns and Suites. He is currently the marketing and event coordinator for Alachua County and is assisting with plans for the new multi-purpose Event and Expo Hall for Alachua County.

He is a member of the International Association of Venue Managers, on the board of Visit Natural North Florida and president emeritus of the Gainesville Sports Commission.

Gromoll earned an A.A.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Luzerne County College and a B.S. in Business from the University of Phoenix. He also has a Master’s Certification in the Essentials of Hospitality Management from Cornell University.


Wende Blumberg

Wende Blumberg

Adjunct Faculty
Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management

Phone: (352) 258-4156
Email: wende.blumberg@gmail.com

  • M.S. in Parks and Recreation Administration, Penn State University
  • B.S. in Parks and Recreation Administration, University of Florida

Biography

In addition to her teaching experience, Wende Blumberg has won over 30 hospitality awards and her passion for the business has resulted in a very successful career. She is a seasoned industry leader, investing over two decades of her hospitality career in management roles with several leading hotel and resort brands such as Hilton Hotels Corporation, Marriott and the Wyndham Hotel Group.

Blumberg’s entrepreneurial and critical management skills have provided mentorship for many hospitality talents throughout her career. She is past president of the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC), a worldwide professional organization governing the multi-billion dollar conference center industry. She has also served in leadership roles with numerous chambers of commerce, sports and tourism boards.

Blumberg earned a B.S. in Parks and Recreation Administration from the University of Florida and then attended Penn State University, State College Campus where she earned her Master’s. She also received the University of Florida Distinguished Alumni Award IACC’s highest honor, the Mel Hosansky Distinguished Service Award for several years of volunteer leadership and professional development teachings.


Brijesh Thapa, Ph.D.

Brijesh Thapa

Professor
Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management

Office: FLG 325B
P.O. Box 118208
Gainesville, FL 32611-8208
Phone: (352) 294-1656
Email: bthapa@hhp.ufl.edu

  • Ph.D. in Recreation, Parks and Tourism, Pennsylvania State University (2000)
  • M.S. in Recreation, Parks and Tourism, Pennsylvania State University (1996)
  • B.S. in Business Administration, West Liberty University (1994)

Biography

Dr. Brijesh (Brij) Thapa is a Professor in the Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management at the University of Florida (UF). Since 2000, he has served in various academic and administrative capacity at the department, college, and university level: Director for Strategic Initiatives at the UF International Center, Director of the UF Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute, Graduate Programs Coordinator for THEM, and Academic Coordinator for the Tourism and Recreation Program. In addition, he is an Affiliate Faculty in other UF units: School of Natural Resources & Environment, Warrington College of Business, Center for African Studies, Center for Latin American Studies, Water Institute, Biodiversity Institute, Transportation Research Center, and the Graduate Program in Development Practice.

Overall, his research theme is within the nexus of tourism, conservation and sustainability. In this context, he has explored issues and associated linkages among key stakeholder groups (e.g., visitors, residents, tourism industry, and policy makers) in the U.S. and developing countries. From a U.S. perspective, he has examined specific lines of inquiry related to environmentalism, recreation behavior, planning and management issues at various nature-based settings managed by the state and federal government. Among developing countries, his research has focused on the examination of multiple themes (i.e., visitor experience, conservation finance, governance, community-based conservation, sustainable tourism, etc.) within the context of people, parks and protected areas management. He has conducted and facilitated numerous interdisciplinary projects in the U.S. and globally in various capacities (e.g., research, training, university partnership, graduate student research, etc.) in over thirty countries.

Recently, he has been focused in capacity building and institutional development projects with respect to curriculum development, research, and training in tourism, nature and cultural heritage conservation, and natural resources management. He has received funding from U.S. Federal Agencies such as: Departments of State, Education, Agriculture, and Interior, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Recreation Division), and U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation. Collectively, he has an extensive record of scholarly publications (100+ outputs in journals and book chapters), presentations (200+ international, national, regional, local, and invited), and grant funded activities ($3 million+). He has also supervised and mentored 11 PhD and 21 MS graduate students.

Additionally, he was awarded a U.S. Fulbright Senior Specialist to Nepal, and has also been recognized as UFs International Educator of the Year for his global engagement initiatives. He has been appointed as the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, which is one of the leading journals in the recreation and park discipline for over three decades.

Research Interests

  • People, parks and protected areas management
  • World Heritage Sites and tourism management
  • Tourist behaviors and impacts: socio-cultural, environmental, economic
  • Ecotourism and cultural heritage tourism
  • Tourism, conservation and sustainable development issues in Developing Countries
  • Tourism education and capacity development in Developing Countries

Courses

  • LEI 3180 Current Trends in Leisure Services
  • LEI 3301 Principles of Travel and Tourism
  • LEI 3546 Park Management
  • LEI 3836 Hospitality Management
  • LEI 4905 National Outdoor Recreation and Rural Tourism Consortium (Field Course – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tremont, Tennessee)
  • LEI 4955 Humans and the Environment (Study Abroad Field Course: New Zealand)
  • LEI 6325 Ecotourism
  • LEI 6839 Heritage Tourism
  • LEI 6931 Tourism and Hospitality Business Perspectives


Svetlana Stepchenkova, PH.D.

Svetlana Stepchenkova

Associate Professor
Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management

Office: FLG 312
P.O. Box 118208
Gainesville, FL 32611-8208
Phone: (352) 294-1652
Email: svetlana.step@hhp.ufl.edu

  • Ph.D. in Hospitality and Tourism Management, Purdue University
  • M.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management, Purdue University
  • B.S. in Applied Mathematics, Moscow State University

Biography

Svetlana Stepchenkova, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at The Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management at the University of Florida. Her research interests lie in the area of destination marketing, branding, and positive image building. She studies tourism behavior and the effectiveness of destination promotion efforts in situations of strained bilateral relations between nations. She is also interested in usability of user-generated content for managerial decision-making in destination marketing and promotion.

In 2010-2014, Svetlana coordinated efforts of the UF team within the framework of the international project “Capacity Building Partnership to Improve Tourism Education, Research, and Industry Outreach: University of Florida, USA and the State University of Nizhni Novgorod, Russian Federation.” The project was funded (US$400,000) by the U.S. Department of Education, Funds for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE), with the matching funds provided by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. The activities focused on curriculum development, course delivery, student mobility programs, faculty training programs, seminars to disseminate best practices, and collaborative research initiatives. In 2014-2016, Svetlana led several research projects in collaboration with the State University of Nizhni Novgorod. They focused on decision-making of Russian tourists with respect to visiting the United States in the situation of conflict between the two countries.

Dr. Stepchenkova serves as an Editorial Board member for Journal of Travel Research, International Journal of Tourism Cities, and Tourism Management Perspectives and on the Executive Committee of the International Tourism Studies Association (ITSA).

Research Interests

  • Destination image as a competitive factor in destination management, marketing, and branding
  • Computer-assisted analysis of qualitative data. Methodologies for statistical analysis of textual and pictorial data
  • Effects of media messages and user-generated content on tourism behavior and destination demand
  • Websites and online communities as a marketing tool for Destination Marketing Organizations
  • Cultural issues in tourism research

Courses

  • LEI 3836 Hospitality Management
  • HLP 6515 Evaluation Procedures
  • HLP 6535 Research Methods


Lori Pennington-Gray, Ph.D.

Lori Pennington-Gray

Professor, Associate Director
Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management, Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute

Office: FLG 325C
P.O. Box 118208
Gainesville, FL 32611-8208
Phone: (352) 294-1657
Email: penngray@hhp.ufl.edu

  • Ph.D. in Park, Recreation and Tourism Resources, Michigan State University (1999)
  • M.S. in Leisure Studies, Pennsylvania State University (1994)
  • B.A. in Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo (1993)

Biography

Lori Pennington-Gray, Ph. D., began her appointment in the Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management in 1999. Since then, she has served as a Professor and also as the Director of the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute from 2004-2007. She is currently the Director of the Tourism Crisis Management Initiative. In addition, she is affiliated with the School of Natural Resources & Environment and the Warrington College of Business. Dr. Pennington-Gray has been involved in numerous research projects in the State of Florida and other areas in the United States. Additionally, she has completed research projects in several countries such as Canada, Mexico, Korea, South Africa, Russia, Peru, and the Caribbean.

Overall, the common theme of her research program is tourism planning and development from both a demand and supply perspective. Her other major research initiative is in the area of tourism crisis management. Her main aim is to provide destinations with research findings, which enable them to make more informed policy choices and to better market their destinations. She operates from a sustainable tourism paradigm where policy is recommended which mitigates the environmental and social impacts to the host destination while improving the economic impact to the host society. She has worked with several stakeholders including non-profits, private sector businesses, public sector businesses and governments, as well as residents.

She has consulted with several destination marketing organizations, designing research to identify front-end positioning and results-oriented evaluation. Some examples of past state-wide projects include: Examining the Contribution of Historic Properties to the Quality of Life for Floridians and Visit Florida – Festivals and Tourism Impacts. Dr. Pennington-Gray has conducted visitor study research for Alachua, Marion, Columbia, Pasco, and Indian River Counties, as well as the coalition of counties marketing under the brand “Original Florida.” Other DMO research has included: St. John’s County Heritage Tourism Study; Alachua County Destination Audit; Marion County Destination Visioning; and Economic Impact for Gainesville Arts Festivals and Gainesville Sports Organizing Committee. In addition, her research has focused on understanding the current state of affairs in various sectors in the industry’s planning and preparedness. Currently, she leads the Tourism Crisis Management Initiative which was established in 2007 within the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute. The aim of the Initiative is to assist the tourism industry in developing comprehensive tourism crisis management initiatives with respect to crisis reduction, readiness, response, and recovery.

Dr. Pennington-Gray is a member of The International Ecotourism Society, Travel and Tourism Research Association, World Travel and Tourism Council, DMAI, AH&LA, and USTA.

Research Interests

  • Tourism Crisis Management
  • Tourism marketing
  • Visitor behaviors and destination marketing organization policy

Courses

  • LEI 3140 History and Philosophy
  • LEI 4574 Marketing in Recreation, Parks and Tourism
  • LEI 6108 Contemporary Theories
  • LEI 6573 Tourism Marketing
  • LEI 6931 Tourism Planning & Development
  • LEI 6931 Hospitality marketing (Warrington College of Business)
  • LEI 6931 Hospitality Planning and Development (Warrington College of Business)


Andrei Kirilenko, Ph.D.

Andrei Kirilenko

Associate Professor
Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management

Office: FLG 240B
P.O. Box 118208
Gainesville, FL 32611-8208
Phone: (352) 294-1648
Email: andrei.kirilenko@ufl.edu

  • Ph.D. in Computer Science, Computing Center of Russian Academy of Science
  • M.S. in Applied Mathematics, Moscow State University, Russia
  • Postdoctoral research: US Environmental Protection Agency, Corvallis, OR; European Forest Institute, Joensuu, Finland

Biography

Andrei Kirilenko, Ph.D. is an associate professor at the Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management at the University of Florida. His current research projects include: (1) Public discourse on climate change in social media and newspapers (sponsored by NSF); (2) People as sensors: flood monitoring through Twitter communication data mining; (3) Communication on mega-sports events in social networks; and (4) Climate change, land use change, and agriculture on the Northern Great Plains (sponsored by NSF). He also serves as a coordinating leading author on climate change in the United Nations Environmental Program Global Environmental Outlook assessment.

The area of Dr. Kirilenko’s research is broadly described as interaction between humans and environment with concentration on the impacts of climate change and sustainability issues. He is especially interested in the research of social and mass media and big data analysis. The initial scientific interests of Dr. Kirilenko were in environmental impacts of climate change: he did a postdoctoral study at the US EPA, studying climate change impacts on forests, was a visiting fellow at the European Forest Institute in Finland, working on climate change impacts on wildfires, and had a long-term collaboration with the University of Kassel (Germany) modeling climate change impact on agriculture of Russia. Later in the scientific career, Dr. Kirilenko developed an interest in studying interactions between changes in natural systems and society, such as the issues of sustainability, adaptation to and mitigation of the climate change impacts, and risk management. He held an Associate Researcher position working on modeling land use change and city sprawl at Purdue University and an Associate Professor position with the University of North Dakota studying environmental and social impacts of climate change in the US Northern Great Plains and in Central Asia. In the 2007 IPCC report on climate change, awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Kirilenko served as a leading author in a chapter on food, fisheries, and forestry.

Currently, Dr. Kirilenko is increasingly involved in multidisciplinary studies, which include scholars in both natural and social sciences such as political and tourism research. One of the examples of such projects is a study of the difference in attitudes of the US and UK mass-media towards applying the “precautionary principle” to environmental protection. Dr. Kirilenko is especially interested in data from social networks such as Twitter and Flickr. Starting in 2012, he has been capturing the entire stream of Twitter messages related to climate change in six languages (~5 million messages to date); this data is being used in a study of factors affecting public attitudes towards global warming. He is compiling social media databases on other topics, related to risk management, such as the 2013 historic Alberta flood, 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, and Flickr photographs made by American tourists in Russia. Dr. Kirilenko considers the “people as sensors” concept of mining the social media for geographically distributed data on people and environment one of the research priorities. Dr. Kirilenko’s research is published in internationally renowned academic journals such as the Proceedings of National Academy of Science, Global Environmental Change and Journal of Travel Research. Throughout the year, Dr. Kirilenko presents his work at several national and international conferences.

Research Interests

  • Social networks and mass media data mining.
  • Climate changes impacts on people and environment.
  • Sustainability, resilience, and adaptation to climate change impacts.

Courses

  • HLP 6535 Research Methods
  • HLP 6515 Evaluation Procedures
  • LEI 6931 Spatial Analysis Data

Request Information

To learn more about University of Florida’s online Master of Science in Tourism and Recreation Management, Specialization in Hospitality Business Management download a brochure, fill out the fields below or call us at (888) 872-5620 to talk with one of our academic coordinators.

* All Fields are Required. Your Privacy is Protected.

The University of Florida respects your right to privacy. By submitting this form, you consent to receive emails and calls from a representative of the University of Florida, which may include the use of automated technology. Consent is needed to contact you, but is not a requirement to register or enroll.

  Are you enrolling from outside the U.S.? Click Here.