Associate Dean Spotlight: Nicolas Graf
April 3, 2019

The following interview was conducted by Tisch Center student worker, Haley Park.

What was your career journey before coming to the Tisch Center?

I started my career in the culinary industry as a chef. Wanting to go a different route, I went back to school and received my undergraduate degree from École Hôtelière de Lausanne, a hotel school in Switzerland and my PhD from Virginia Tech business school. Afterwards, I taught at the University of Houston for about two years before teaching at the ESSEC Business School in Paris where I was promoted to the Director of the MBA program of Hospitality and Management. After 7 years at ESSEC, I decided I wanted to go back to the culinary side of life and work for celebrity chef, Alain Ducasse – I was the managing director of Alain Ducasse Education & Consulting.

My most recent position before coming to Tisch was Chief Academic Officer at a hotel management school, where I oversaw all faculty, academic programs, and admissions for the school’s five campuses. About a year ago, I moved to New York and joined the Tisch Center as Associate Dean.

What has your first year been like since joining NYU and the Tisch Center?

When I first arrived in New York, it took about ten days for my wife and I to settle in. Overall, the adjustment was much easier than expected. In terms of my experience at NYU, the school is truly a wonderful place that attracts interest from anyone. The community here is very diverse with people coming from various backgrounds. In terms of my experience at The Tisch Center, it has been wonderful. It’s amazing to see the enormous support for what we do from the hospitality industry. That results in very generous scholarship funds at the Tisch Center, providing access for students in higher education, both undergraduate and graduate. Overall, the industry is really investing in the future of the profession.

What was the thought process behind changing the name of the Tisch Center from Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality and Tourism to Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality?

The industry we are serving has expanded its scope greatly. There are multiple phases of hospitality including planning, searching, booking, traveling and reviewing that all fall under this umbrella. These sectors are continuing to expand but since the name of the school cannot incorporate all of these sectors, the common denominator that made the most sense was hospitality.

What is your vision for the Tisch Center? What do you hope the Tisch Center will accomplish in the coming years and how will that impact its students?

During the first three months of my time here, I spent a significant time meeting with faculty, alumni, students, and friends of the Tisch center. Every meeting had three values in common among the Tisch community: being global, entrepreneurial and experiential. In terms of what that means, the global aspect is being able to deal with complexity and embracing complexity. The entrepreneurial aspect is being solution-driven and not just driven by analysis but by implementation as well. Lastly, the experiential aspect is being very hands-on, practical and vocational in a direct  and applicable way.

My vision for the Tisch center reflects these three values. The global aspect is everywhere in our curriculum and the content of what we deliver. In addition, the student body and faculty are very diverse and the extracurriculars go well-beyond studying abroad. With the entrepreneurial value, I want the Tisch center to recognize those students who are solution-driven and who are challenging the status quo in organizations. In addition, we are making the curriculum more flexible for students and increasing electives enabling students to have more freedom in choosing their courses. Lastly, with the experiential value, I want the Tisch curriculum to implement learning that is not from the textbook but actually encouraging students to be the ones who are writing the textbook. I want the work to be hands-on. We are working on building a lab for students to test technology such as search engine optimization, content optimization, artificial intelligence and overall bettering digital media.

What do you love most about living in New York City?

“If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” – Frank Sinatra

In each major city around the world, whether it’s Paris, London or Hong Kong, there is something about each city that makes it particularly unique. However, New York is a league of its own. It has everything that is world class and this was something I wasn’t fully aware of before coming here, but it rings true after now being here for almost a year. New York has the best art, best food, excellent restaurants, great entertainment and tied with the brilliant people at NYU, it has been a wonderful experience so far.