Faculty Focus: Barry Brantley
Barry Brantley has come a long way from working as a bellman in a hotel. Brantley, coordinator and associate professor of hospitality at Delgado Community College, didn’t always know that he wanted to work in the hospitality industry, but once he found his calling there was no turning back. “I’ve always heard the expression that if you really enjoy what you are doing then you won’t feel like you ever worked a day in your life—and I really believe that,” said Brantley.
Growing up in a farming community in Northern Louisiana, Brantley thought he wanted to study agricultural business until he was offered a job from a hotel general manager while bagging groceries at a part-time job and attending college at Louisiana Tech. Brantley enjoyed the diversity of the people he met and interacted with and he loved opportunities to improve an experience for a guest. “If you find ways to elevate an experience, it’s like putting trophies on the shelf,” said Brantley. “Customer service success stories are very rewarding and it could be something as simple as ‘thank you’ or ‘I never thought of doing that,’ and I thrive on that.”
After Brantley got his feet wet as a bellman, he was promoted to front office manager. It didn’t take long for him to become director of sales and marketing with a company car and an assistant. Sales came naturally to Brantley and he led sales campaigns at hotel properties that were very successful. “While a lot of the entry positions in the hospitality industry are not high-waged, the conveyor belt moves very fast,” said Brantley. “You can start in the industry—maybe in finance—and it could be a year before you have an opportunity for a promotion. You could get a promotion opportunity in three to four months in the hospitality industry and that’s what happened. I tell our students all the time, although you start out at a salary less than you think you are worth, if you demonstrate ability and you make sure that your manager is satisfied with the results, a promotion opportunity can come pretty quickly.”
Brantley was travelling six days a week, had a great benefit package, and a great salary, but he was never home. “Yes, I was travelling, but it tipped the scale too far in the other direction,” he said. “There was too much travel and too much eating out in restaurants. I didn’t enjoy it anymore. I was losing my center. I wanted to stay in New Orleans.”
Brantley returned home after working in luxurious hotels that he had never dreamed of like the Ritz Carlton, Omni, and Starwood Hotels. Brantley saw an ad in the local paper to teach at Delgado, interviewed, and was given the opportunity to coordinate the Hospitability Program in 1998.
Teaching mostly introductory courses gives Brantley a chance to get a sense of where students are starting from in their education. He also teaches some of the higher level courses, such as facility management. However, he rotates about 15 different courses between himself and the talents of adjunct professors; they teach everything from hospitality law, marketing, convention services, and restaurant management.
The instructors also make sure that grooming the hospitality students goes beyond the textbook and the syllabus. They do their best to help students create relationships within hospitality circles in the city because it is important for their career paths. Another unique fact about Brantley and the other instructors in the Hospitality and Management Program is that all of them are working in the industry. They know what’s currently happening in the industry and they bring that into the classroom.
Brantley is also a meeting and event planner, working with HelmsBriscoe, one of the world’s largest meeting and event management companies. Recently, Brantley returned from a business trip providing tours of hotels and the convention center in Tulsa for a client meeting in 2014 and 2015. “We were doing tours and looking at the pros and cons of each option, so when I returned to class the students knew that I did a site visit and we talked about it,” said Brantley.
The hospitality industry is becoming more and more diverse and is one of the fastest growing professions in the city, besides healthcare. Most hospitality students aspire to be in management level positions in restaurants and hotels, while some want to be independent and own their own tour guiding service or bed and breakfast. Some areas that are seeing rapid growth in hospitality are security, facility management and operations, and technology.
The majority of Delgado graduates are looking for opportunities in their field immediately after receiving their associate’s degree, but about half of them go directly to the University of New Orleans (UNO) because it’s less expensive and Delgado has a 2+2 program agreement with UNO. “The hospitality program has also seen tremendous growth over the last 10 years, and we’d still like to double it,” said Brantley.”
In addition to teaching and planning meetings, Brantley is president of the Louisiana Association for Career and Technical Education (LACTE), an organization that provides training and resources to students pursuing technical careers. “I think leadership responsibilities are always important,” said Brantley. “Part of our responsibility is contributing to rowing the boat, not just riding the boat. I think this aligns very well with the mission of the College and with the mission of our department, specifically in making sure that we are providing skills and opportunities for industry partners to receive well-qualified engaged employees that are ready to hit the pavement running.”
Today, Brantley feels at home, and he is very happy. He only travels a couple of times a month, which doesn’t interfere with his teaching schedule. “I love meeting and event planning and I will probably do that until I can’t speak or can’t walk, and there is something extra satisfying when you excite people about opportunities within their career,” he said.