Faculty profile: Brett Horton
Dr. Brett Horton is a professor of practice in hospitality management at Kansas State University's Olathe campus. He oversees the hospitality management bachelor's degree completion program at the campus, which is the first undergraduate program at the campus. He also instructs undergraduate courses at the Manhattan campus.
Dr. Horton grew up on a farm in western Kansas, the youngest of three brothers and one sister. Growing up, he wanted to be a veterinarian but witnessing a medical challenge during a cattle birth made him consider a different career.
"Being the youngest, I often found myself relegated to the kitchen because I couldn't do the same things my older brothers could," Dr. Horton said. "I like to cook, though, and I was always helping my mom with family and community dinners. Food service was a natural fit."
Dr. Horton decided to enroll in the hospitality management program at Kansas State University, then called hotel, restaurant, institution management and dietetics. During the program, he completed an internship at The Broadmoor in Colorado Spring, Colorado — a AAA Five Star luxury resort.
With his bachelor's degree complete, Dr. Horton began applying for jobs at every five-star property in the U.S. that were not located in New York. He joined the Greenbrier Hotel and Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, as an assistant restaurant manager/captain, where he worked for three years.
Dr. Horton then decided it was time to earn his master's degree, and began taking night classes at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.
He followed up the master's degree with a doctorate in restaurant, hotel, institution and tourism management from Purdue University in Indiana. The goal was to become a faculty member. He joined Iowa State University as an assistant professor, splitting his time teaching and conducting research.
"Pretty quickly, I realized that research wasn't my passion," Dr. Horton said. "I really enjoyed working with students, teaching class, mentoring and industry relations. But, I just couldn't get passionate about writing papers, which is a key part of higher education."
After three years at Iowa State, Dr. Horton and wife, Michelle, relocated to Harrisonburg, Virginia, putting the couple closer to her family and him to James Madison University, an institution that prioritized teaching rather than research. He took a position as an associate professor, eventually becoming director of the university's hospitality and tourism management program.
After nine years, Dr. Horton felt it was time to get more in-depth knowledge about the hotel industry. He joined the WinShape Foundation in Mount Berry, Georgia, as director of the WinShape Retreat Center and later as senior director of operations. The center, located on the Mountain Campus of Berry College, is 80 rooms, 22 cabins and staffed by 100 employees. It also is one of the nonprofit foundations of the Cathy Family, best known for establishing Chick-fil-A.
"It allowed me to really manage a larger organization and understand the broader aspects and moving parts of running a hotel," Dr. Horton said. "I had never been the general manager of a hotel property until that point, so it was a tremendous learning experience."
Seven years later, Dr. Horton's daughter, Faith, was preparing to enter college. The transition prompted him to consider higher education again, but in a role that was more student-focused.
He applied for and accepted the professor of practice position at K-State Olathe, a role that focused more on classroom education and helping kickstart the undergraduate hospitality management program in Kansas City. It also is the first undergraduate program at K-State's Olathe campus.
Recently, Dr. Horton led a group of 10 undergraduate students from Manhattan's hospitality management program on a week-long educational trip in Greater Kansas City.
Each day, the students, who have a lodging focus, shadowed hotel managers at five different hotels, including the Adam's Mark Hotel and Conference Center; InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza; Argosy Casino Hotel and Spa; Downtown Marriott and the Hilton Kansas City Hotel near the Kansas City International Airport.
In addition to job shadowing, students toured the hotel and met with staff who work the front desk operations, housekeeping, food service, sales and marketing. The students also stayed in the respective hotel overnight.
The goal was for students to see the complete spectrum of various types of hotels so they could determine which best aligned to their interest and career goals.
Dr. Horton enjoys cooking, baking, reading — particularly books by Doris Kearns Goodwin — card games and spending time with his extended family. He also runs and hikes.
His wife, Michelle, works at Lackman Library. They have two children, Faith and Jay. The family is active in the church. They also have two dogs: Pippin, named after a hobbit in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Munchie, a poodle mix, and Sweetie the cat.