Meet CSU’s hospitality management faculty

HM group

The faculty in the Hospitality Management Program in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University are a fun group of faculty and instructors helping students achieve their dreams of becoming a part of the hospitality industry.

Gabriel Armstrong graduated with a degree in hospitality management Gabe Armstrongfrom CSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition in 2012 and secured a loan for his business idea quickly thereafter. He founded The Crooked Cup, a café and bakeshop serving coffee made with locally roasted beans and fresh baked goods made in-house. One store blossomed into four, and Armstrong recently added a franchise in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Armstrong’s idea for opening a coffee shop formed while discussing business ideas with Assistant Professor Eric Milholland. Armstrong realized there are only a handful of businesses that people frequent every day, and he wanted to build a loyal customer base where he could visit with his regulars, his favorite part of the job. In 2013, Armstrong’s former CSU professors invited him to guest lecture in their classes. His passion for teaching led to his current position as an industry instructor in Food Science and Human Nutrition and he now teaches a class on cost control in the HM Program. Outside of work and teaching, Armstrong enjoys playing golf (particularly when beating fellow instructors Milholland and Ken Symsack, which is constantly!) and hanging out with his two wonderful children.

Bill Franz graduated with his B.S. in business administration from Black Bill FranzHills State University, his M.B.A. from University of South Dakota and his Ph.D. in human resource studies from CSU. He is an associate professor and senior instructor who has been teaching in the HM Program in the FSHN department for 22 years as well as serving as the internship and practicum coordinator for the HM program. Prior to his time here at CSU, he was vice president of Human Resources/Training and Development for Pencom International, an international consulting company for the hospitality industry, and regional training manager with the S&A Restaurant Corporation for 14 years. Franz’s research interests are managing Gen Y (Millennials); strategic human resource development; management and employee training, results and turnover. Franz will be retiring from CSU in December 2021. Outside of work, Franz enjoys fly-fishing, cooking and gardening.

Soo Kang graduated with a M.S. and Ph.D. in hospitality and tourism Soo Kangmanagement from Kansas State University. She was an instructor with Morehead State University before coming to CSU. She has been with CSU since 2003 and is now a full professor in FSHN. Kang was a Global Teaching Scholar with Semester at Sea during the fall semester of 2017 and a visiting scholar with Kyung Hee University in 2010/2011. Kang is originally from Korea and travels there annually to visit family and friends. Kang’s research interests are consumer behaviors and marketing; cross cultural tourism behaviors; quality of life issues in the hospitality arena; and cannabis tourism and impacts. She has authored many publications on corporate social responsibility, marijuana tourism in Colorado, global citizenship, Colorado’s marijuana’s tourism market and quality-value-attitude model. She was also the recipient of the Excellence in Research Award given by Resort and Commercial Recreation Association in 2019. Kang was interviewed regarding food culture in South Korea for the Winter Olympic Games in 2018. Outside of work, Kang enjoys horses and horseback riding and figure skating.

Eric Milholland is an assistant professor in the HM program and a four-Eric Milhollandtime alumnus from CSU graduating in 1997, 2006, 2010 and finally in 2015 with his Ph.D. Milholland’s areas of academic emphasis include food principles and application, foodservice production, restaurant operations, event planning and hotel operations. As an instructor, his primary goal for students is to increase their understanding to enhance the long-term retention of information. Milholland said, “Knowledge is not what someone can recite, but rather what they can apply. To that end, I will employ any instructional methodology I believe enhances the acquisition of knowledge. I enjoy defying traditional classroom stereotypes and stigmas. This not only opens up a wide variety of pedagogical methodologies, but also illustrates to learners that challenging norms can lead to exciting results.” Milholland received the CSU Best Teacher Award in 2015. Outside of work, Milholland enjoys playing golf, spending time with friends and family and road trips with his wife and dog.

Jeff Miller graduated from Kansas State University with a M.S. in hotel, Jeff Millerrestaurant and institution management and earned his Ph.D. in education and human resources from CSU. He is an associate professor in the HM Program after spending twenty years in the food industry as an American Culinary Federation certified executive chef and certified culinary educator. He researches food and culture issues as well as food production and preservation methods. Miller frequently writes for “The Conversation,” a nonprofit independent news organization dedicated to unlocking the knowledge of experts for the public good and published his most recent book, Avocado: A Global History in 2020. He was named a Research Fellow of the Association for the Study of Food and Society in 2019. Miller received a CSU Best Teacher Award in 2007 and was named the 2017 Sysco/CAFÉ National Educator of the Year. Outside of work, Miller is an assemblage artist, enjoys quilting, gardening, food preservation and dabbles in making hard cider.

Ken Symsack graduated from CSU’s HM Program in 2011. He was hired as Ken Symsackchef of the Aspen Grille and culinary instructor, all part of the HM Program in FSHN. From washing dishes in the third grade, to working in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the state, Symsack brings a considerable amount of experience to the restaurant. Symsack serves as instructors for the HM students in the Aspen Grille class, where the goal is for them to learn all aspects of restaurant operations. “I just love imparting knowledge. I’ve always enjoyed getting people energized about food, so doing it as a profession is awesome,” Symsack said. “Many chefs are already set in their ways. Teaching students while they are open-minded and have a fresh outlook is very fulfilling.” After receiving a culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Symsack came to CSU to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the food industry. Outside of work, Symsack enjoys spending time with his children and fishing.

The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.