Innovative Hospitality Management Curriculum Delivers Excellence

To say that the Coachella Valley relies upon tourism as one of our most important resources would be an understatement. Millions of visitors’ vacations in the Valley, generating over $7 billion annually.

So, it is no surprise that COD would invest in developing the most innovative, hands-on curriculum by such an esteemed instructor of Hospitality Management as Yolanda Bender. Her impressive resume includes managing over 650 team members in 15 of the most prestigious hotel brands in the country.

What started as teaching two intro classes in 2020, soon multiplied into developing courses in hospitality law, operations, management, sales and marketing.

“If we can jump-start a student’s career here, then they can earn a higher-level salary, which often affects their entire family,” shares Bender. “A hospitality career can literally change their life. Students share their dreams with us of buying a house, caring for parents and having a career they love. With an AA degree, those dreams are possible. And, because they have received professional training, they will go on to lead their teams to excel. Together with our students, we can bring excellence to the service industry.”

American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute Partnership
To address the need for professional training, Bender has developed a partnership with the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute, which focuses on creating career opportunities for upward mobility, spurring economic growth, investing in communities and serving America’s travelers. Students will take a final exam and, if they score a grade of 70% or higher, they are able to earn a certificate for that class and can continue to study through the full program. When they achieve a Certificate of Hospitality Operations and add that to their resumes, they will have a more promising chance of landing a supervisory or management position.

Virtual Hotel Simulations
Students have also experienced running virtual hotel simulations, giving them the ability to operate a hotel, engage in potential scenarios and explore the effects of their discussions on food costs, profit and loss statements, etc. This has been a game-changer in advancing their cause-and-effect results and understanding how they play into the comprehensive scope of the business.

7-Week Hospitality Management Course Culminates with a Study Abroad Trip to Japan
Study abroad programs enrich a student’s education in a variety of ways. Acting on an idea she imagined during the pandemic, Bender partnered with Director of International Education Cody McCabe to create a new course on Leadership and Management in the Hospitality Industry. Held in conjunction with students from Wakayama University in Wakayama, Japan, the course culminates with a 7-10-day trip to Japan where students from both schools, along with industry leaders, will immerse themselves in educational activities.

Bender adds, “The global perspectives our 15 Roadrunners majoring in Hospitality Management, Business, or Culinary will gain through this program will meaningfully impact their educational and professional journeys. When asked, Japan is the number-one destination that our students want to visit.”

“Many of our students have never left the Coachella Valley. The chance to learn about sustainable development, business practices in Japan vs. the USA, compared to what we consider a business major to the Japanese educational view that hospitality management is a social science, and hear from Japanese industry leaders will be a life-changing opportunity for COD students.”

“Where the Coachella Valley is an established tourist destination, Wakayama students are in the process of learning how their city too can become a destination, so the students will have a spirited exchange of ideas to share with one another.”

Students will also have the opportunity to study and compare American and Japanese hospitality techniques and training. Course content will include:

  • Managing Organizational Change
  • The Changing Nature of Leadership and Management
  • The Quest for Quality Control Management
  • Continuous Improvement – Process and Tools
  • Power and Empowerment
  • Communication Skills
  • Goal Setting, Coaching, and Conflict-Management Skills
  • High-Performance Teams
  • The Challenge of Diversity
  • Strategic Career Planning
  • Ethics

The opportunity for COD students to participate in the course for the low cost of $500 plus cost of enrollment and personal expenses (subject to change) has been made possible by the generous donations made by Jeremy Hobbs with the Western Wind Foundation, John Monahan and the Visit Greater Palm Springs Foundation.

The COD Foundation’s donors acknowledge the immense value to COD students in learning about sustainable development and gaining a deeper understanding of management theories while engaging in a new culture.

“The Western Wind Foundation and I are very excited to sponsor COD’s study abroad course,” says Hobbs. “The time spent in Japan, at an internationally renowned hospitality program, is an incredible opportunity for our students to learn and live in a distinct cultural environment. And I appreciate COD for providing this immediate, cost-effective program for our local students – especially those who are often overlooked or underrepresented, but who I know to be filled with smarts, drive and passion.”

According to John Monahan, “COD has always been innovative in the curriculum they develop. This new hospitality program is just another example of COD’s creativity and leadership, and I’m proud to be able to support it.”

Founded in 2018, the Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to advancing education, employment and professional growth in the Valley’s tourism and hospitality community through providing scholarship opportunities to local students and hospitality workers, developing funding sources to support Foundation programs and services and fostering passion for and excellence of service at every level.

Many of Bender’s students are already putting their education into practice after graduation, developing their inspirational ideas and making them realities. She has seen talented students pursue their four-year degree at Cal Poly Pomona or accept strong job offers at prestigious hotels. They quickly advance to managerial positions, gain transfers to larger properties and soon find themselves earning considerable incomes. Bender expresses, “I am continuously blown away by our students’ creative ideas, energy and enthusiasm. We are here to support them, and I know they are going to go far!”

Industry internships will give students hands-on training with the Valley’s best hotels while learning a variety of positions in restaurant, golf, catering, finance, front office, housekeeping, maintenance and human resources.

To support the future of COD’s Hospitality program, donate at, call 760.773.2561 or email

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