SARASOTA -- The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee has received the gift of a new program for its College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership.
The gift is from Tampa businessman John McKibbon III's JB McKibbon Foundation. The donation will allow USF Sarasaota-Manatee to establish the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation at USF Sarasota-Manatee.
The name "M3" comes from McKibbon's company M3 Accounting. McKibbon is also the chief executive officer of McKibbon Hotel Group Inc., chairman of McKibbon Hotel Management Inc. and president of its parent company McKibbon Brothers Inc.
McKibbon hotels include the Courtyard by Marriott at the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport and the Residence Inn by Marriott on University Parkway.
McKibbon does not want to disclose the amount of his gift.
"This gift will allow USF Sarasota-Manatee to immediately begin development of new technologies to serve the hospitality industry," McKibbon said in a press release.
The "center" will be a new program inside the College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership. Dennis Stover, regional vice president of advancement at USF Sarasota-Manatee, said the program will be a "highly technical innovative center."
"The program will have a larger research component for research in a certain area," Stover said.
For example, students can learn to use data and computer programs to assess young people to analyze their best fit for a position in hospitality, like a job personality profile.
Stover said the assessment is an extension of a project from
a graduate student last year.
Cihan Cobanoglu, dean of the College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership, said the program will continue to focus on student collaboration.
"Current hospitality and technology centers at universities are very traditional," Cobanoglu said. "Our center is unique in that it is focused on bringing something new."
In the new program, Cobanoglu said students will be able to produce a hotel performance index, a report students will access through M3 Accounting software.
"Students will be able to look at reports that show the cost of running a hotel in Florida versus Atlanta, New York or other places," Cobanoglu said. "This will give great information to use in classes for finance and accounting courses within the college, but it is only one of the many things we are going to do. The idea is to bring great minds together and have their ideas implemented in school."
The donation will also give students the opportunity to become M3 Scholars, master's level students who will serve as graduate assistants to the College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership. The M3 Scholar program will support student and faculty participation in national and international conferences and trainings and create opportunities for USF Sarasota-Manatee to host visiting faculty.
Stover said M3 Scholar graduate assistants will focus on developing new projects, building programs and forming models for other schools' hospitality and technology programs.
M3 Scholars will receive scholarships and resources for their projects.
"We are establishing a competitive process that will look at criteria such as academics and other components the college feels are important for leadership," Stover said.
The gift will benefit staff as well as students.
The former McKibbon Hotel Management Professorship Endowment is being upgraded to a chair endowment.
Cobanoglu will be the new McKibbon Hotel Management Chair and will receive a raise.
"It is an endowed gift. The money he gave will be in an account, so the revenue that is earned will be used every year," Cobanoglu said. "In a way, it will be eternal."
McKibbon is from Gainesville, Ga., and is not a graduate of USF. Stover said McKibbon is a long-time friend to the college and serves on the school's Hospitality Advisory Council.
Stover said the gift is effective immediately and will take four to six months to launch.
"We are very thrilled," Stover said.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.