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There are not many interviewees who can channel Woodstock festival, management guru Peter Drucker and French polymath Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in the same conversation.

Marija Lazarev Živanović is just such a person. Well-read and worldly-wise, Serbian-born Marija has been part of the Glion faculty for a decade. Her specialist subject is global tourism, which she has always approached from all angles, including cultural and psychological, as well as the ‘harder’ aspects of finance and infrastructure.

“As a concept, tourism is open to many different interpretations – this is why it is so appealing,” she says. “All participants, including academics and their students, constantly make it evolve. Until 30 years ago, there were no books on tourism and hospitality. Nowadays we have excellent academic journals and thousands of books on supply, demand, impacts of tourism, destinations, practices, case studies, distribution channels, marketing in tourism, and so on.”

Marija believes tourism and hospitality make such good subjects to study because doing so helps to build the core skills of tomorrow. “Our students can understand concepts across multiple disciplines, such as economics, psychology and geography, while sharpening their analytical skills in order to make sense of it all. They develop social intelligence and soft skills, which are crucial in connecting well with others at different levels. This also helps in teamwork, customer relationships and loyalty – all among the top skills which will be required by employers in future.”

Helping students accomplish their dissertations

Having taught in the classroom for a number of years, Marija has more recently acted as Lead Dissertation Tutor – returning to a role she has undertaken successfully in the past. To date, she has already supervised more than 500 dissertations and capstone projects.

She explains, “A lot of our students opt for tourism-related subjects for their dissertations, but my role is not really about subject matter expertise. I’m here to keep them on the right path, whether that’s through giving them a subtle – or not so subtle – push, or sometimes ‘killing’ their enthusiasm for a particular topic if it is leading them in the wrong direction.

“It’s really important for me to listen to them, read their body language and understand what they need of me as a mentor.”

Sometimes Marija’s mentoring goes a step further, allowing students the opportunity to find a wider audience for their work. “Students produce some inspiring papers in their dissertation module. I do not hesitate to motivate them to go further and try to present their work at conferences,” she says.

“Last year, at a conference in Sofia, we were approached by the scientific committee, who asked if the paper could be reworked to appear in a book of essays on tourism. So we did it.”

The result was that a dissertation written by student Novita Permatasari (entitled Generation Y’s behavior towards hotels’ sustainable practices: case of Jakarta) became a chapter in the book Traditions and Innovations in Contemporary Tourism, which was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Empathy with millennials

Like all good teachers, Marija is acutely aware of the changing ideals of younger generations. She has noted the evolving demands of the millennial generation, many of whom desire a purpose bigger than money from their future employment, while also seeking greater empathy from teachers, mentors and bosses.

“I have little enthusiasm for social media, so I don’t use Facebook or Twitter. Plus I made a conscious decision not to own a smartphone until quite recently,” she explains. “But students, of course, have a very different perspective on all this. Their way of using technology, collecting data, analyzing it, synthesizing it, using it to develop new ideas… that’s incredibly exciting and it brings new perspective to us as lecturers.”

Putting Serbia on the tourism map

As a proud Serb, Marija does all she can to support the development of her home country’s tourism industry. “It is not easy, because we still require a lot of infrastructure investment, but what we do have is an amazing energy among our young people, as well as some world-famous music festivals, such as Exit in Novi Sad and the Guca Trumpet Festival, to put Serbia on the map.

“I was pleased to be invited as keynote speaker at the 25th Forum of Hoteliers in the beautiful mountain resort of Zlatibor last year. The participants and panelists were really keen to know more about Glion, the transformative education we offer and the career possibilities it opens up. Afterwards, I was interviewed by Serbia’s leading tourism magazine Turistički Svet.”(you can find the bilingual article on pages 50-54 here).

Marija’s enthusiasm for her subject radiates throughout the conversation. And she has this advice to any young individual considering tourism and hospitality as a study, and future career, option. “Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, said that there is only one true luxury: that of human relationships. This is an industry all about human relationships, and one where you can be constantly surrounded by humans, as well as by luxury.
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About the author

Glion Institute of Higher Education
Glion Institute of Higher Education is a private Swiss institution offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality, luxury and event management to an international student body across three campuses in Switzerland and London, UK.
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