Guest Blog #1: T. Trent Dang Discusses the Merging of Industry and Academic Goals

Mr. Trent Dang, Guest Blogger

Mr. Trent Dang, Guest Blogger

During my fifteen years in the gaming industry, I’ve also had the pleasure of being an adjunct instructor at two fine universities for about half that time. Being in this somewhat unique position, I’ve often thought of how both sides can assist each other with their endeavors so when Dr. Thomas asked if I would like to write a guest article, I thought what a great venue to put some of these thoughts down on “paper.”

For Academics

Stay relevant.

I know this may sound cliché’, but in these still tough economic times we are managing our businesses day by day, and in the case of the gaming industry, often times by the hour. Finding ways to help harried managers do their job better is the best way to find willing participants for your research.

Prepare your students for the world awaiting them.

Too often, we practitioners receive fresh graduates quite overwhelmed with the demands of our business. Generally speaking this comes in two forms:

1. Being able to apply coursework to day-to-day strategies.

We all learned in school that employees need training to be at their best. But now, try scheduling 50 front desk clerks across multiple shifts and varying days off for said training all the while minimizing (or eliminating) overtime and keeping the front desk staffed. New graduates who can do the latter will be like gold to us (industry).

2. Lifestyle.

Much has been written about Gen-Y’s lifestyle expectations. Unfortunately ours is a 24/7/365 day business that needs people, for example, to work graveyard shift on New Year’s Eve and, as we know, the market has dictated relatively low salaries for entry-level positions. Unfortunately, this is not going to change anytime soon and we need your help in impressing this upon your students before they get too far along in their studies.

Endeavor to make industry a true partner.

Like it or not, the vast majority of our students are enrolled in our courses so that they can get jobs, not become professors. And because enrollment generally equals continued funding, it’s inherent that we find ways to get our students said jobs.

While I’ve been part of industry/school advisory committees, I’ve never seen or heard of a school making industry a true partner. By that, I mean for example, asking your most important hiring managers “if my students do well in this curriculum/class, how likely are you to hire them?” and if they say “not likely” then subsequently ask “tell me what I need to do to make our coursework relevant to you”. Or, possibly, create a committee of recent graduates and ask them what parts of the curriculum have helped them the most and which could use improvement then engage them in crafting changes.

For Industry

Strive to do more research.

Our businesses are so hectic that it’s often times impossible to take a step back and evaluate how to make large-scale or fundamental changes to our business even though we may acknowledge they may be needed. The majority of academics have a research component as part of their duties; so that coupled with the advanced research and statistics coursework they undertake in graduate school can oftentimes be the arrow in your quiver that helps you find that gem that can really drive positive fundamental changes to your business if you develop a research partnership.

Become more engaged with the Universities that fill your ranks.

I’ve been part of many career fairs at Universities and unfortunately, you find some degree programs just don’t provide what you need as an organization so just summarily write them off. Most often, we as practitioners just move on but I’ve found that when I’ve approached the head of such a program, he/she has been quite receptive to feedback since, as I mentioned previously, most understand that their students are enrolled in their programs in order to get jobs and no jobs = no students = no funding.

Make continuous learning a requirement.

The days of Marketing, HR, Operations, etc. working in a silo (i.e., “that’s not my job”) are over. In the hyper-competitive world we live in with limited budgets, it’s now obligatory that every department not only understand how their function contributes to the success of the business but also how their peers in other departments contribute as well so that cross-functional synergies can be created. HR must understand Marketing’s business so they can best craft the best HR strategy for them, Marketing must understand Operation’s business so that when they plan an event or promotion the Operations department is prepared, etc., etc., etc.

Most importantly, in today’s day and age EVERYONE must understand how what they and their peers do contributes to the bottom line. Very rarely in today’s times do departments have large staffing models such that the department head can attend meetings all day and simply choose between the two best decisions his/her staff has prepared. In today’s day and age, the successful department head is the one grinding away in excel on their own to discover the best answer him/herself.

It is unlikely that you or your staff has all of this knowledge already so make it a point to provide this training to them whether it be inter-departmental cross training, guest speakers from academics, additional coursework, or better yet ALL OF THE ABOVE!


T. Trent Dang is a 15-year veteran of the gaming industry having held senior positions in marketing, operations, and information technology for a variety of companies such as Harrah’s (now Caesars’) Entertainment, Wynn Las Vegas, and Penn National Gaming. In addition to his industry experience he has also taught hospitality courses at Tulane University and the University of Southern Mississippi and has an upcoming article in The International Journal of Hospitality Management. He performed his undergraduate coursework in Social Science and Music at the University of Oklahoma and Loyola University New Orleans and also holds a master’s degree in Hotel Administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

T. Trent Dang can be reached via email at