Academics & Research

Researchers gain recognition

Two new assistant professors at the Conrad N. Hilton College have been awarded the New Faculty Research Grant, an annual research opportunity from the University.

The grant is awarded to only a few assistant professors. The applications go through a university committee that chooses a recipient based on his or her merits within the field. Priyanko Guchait and Yoon Koh are two of the grant’s recipients for their research projects this month.

“We have a great group of assistant professors,” said Dean of the Hilton College John T. Bowen. “In a way, it just validates that we chose a couple of more good people. We are very selective.”

Guchait and Koh have published numerous papers and articles in distinguished journals in their fields, have earned doctorates and have at least three years of experience working in the industry.

Guchait’s growing interest in what he calls the people aspect of management within the business field led him to the hospitality industry and eventually to UH and the Hilton College.

Guchait said he is ready for the challenge that this grant brings.

“I definitely feel the pressure to maintain the standards. But it’s a positive pressure. I think I can play at this level,” Guchait said. “That was one of the reasons I moved here. My colleagues are very supportive and helpful but we have a healthy competition going on in the department, which keeps all of us motivated.”

Guchait’s research project is titled “Error Management in Hotel Teams: Impact on Employee and Firm Performance.” The research will focus on error-management culture within the hospitality industry.

According to a summary of the project, it encompasses organizational practices related to communicating about errors, to sharing error knowledge, to helping in error situations and to quickly detecting and handling errors.

Guchait highlights the tendency for companies to focus on the negative aspects of error, how to prevent it and proposes a positive look at error.

“Some positive consequences of errors are learning, knowledge management and creativity. You learn from errors and you get better in anticipating errors,” Guchait said. “You can avoid the errors from happening again in the future, and you can share the error knowledge with others so they do not repeat the same mistakes. You come up with better and innovative solutions to tackle the challenges in future.”

Koh said she is excited to be selected and eager to begin her research at UH with her research project “Seeking an Optimal Speed in International Expansion: U.S. Restaurant Industry Perspective.” It deals with the speed of globalization of firms as an important time-based dimension within the context of the U.S. restaurant industry that Koh said has been largely ignored by hospitality literature.

“I hypothesize that there is an optimal speed in international expansion and firm performance for the U.S. restaurant companies since too fast and too delayed international expansion may not be beneficial in maximizing a firm’s financial performance,” Koh said.

The issue of internationalization is something she has researched for years.

“Thinking about interesting topics in my focus area of research is one of the things I enjoy,” Koh said. “Each topic has its own story, but many times topics come from a combination of many different things.”

Bowen has faith in Koh and Guchait as they begin their work and help advance the college and the hospitality industry as a whole.

“Both of them are recent graduates from Ph.D. programs, so I know they would be on the cutting edge of things that are happening,” Bowen said. “They both have some industry experience, so they will be able to relate with that as well.”

Koh and Guchait will be able to enhance their knowledge and hopefully gain recognition in the field toward their area of research.

“They need to focus,” Bowen said. “Today there is so much threat to what you can do in any discipline that you don’t want to be a generalist, but you want your name to come to mind when talking about a certain area. You want to be known for something.”

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