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Industry Professors

This program weaves theory and practice together in the hospitality classroom by collaborating with hospitality industry professionals.

Chris Horak

Chris Horak, Director and Curator of Timeless Tanglewood

Born and raised in South Africa. Living in Pensacola, Florida. An avid letter writer who now convert to shorter sentences and shorter thoughts. Regular posting of thoughts will appear on this site.  The pictures will all be from my own camera. If not so, I will give the photographer responsible for the work the deserved credit.

At each stage of my life when I developed a new interest in life. I would seek formal education on that subject. Many of these educational experiences were not accompanied by a certification. This assisted me to have a clearer understanding of that path and its implementation.

I will talk about food. I will talk about plants and flowers. 


Patti Spaniola

Patti Spaniola, Director of Conferences and Events, University of West Florida

Patti Spaniola serves as the Director of Conferences and Events at the University of West Florida. She is an enthusiastic hospitality executive with a diverse range of experience in customer service, sales, meeting planning, team building and event design. She specializes in participant engagement techniques and how to deliver meaningful content in a memorable way. Patti tirelessly attends educational webinars, technology demos and virtual events to ascertain what tools and resources are most effective for event planners. 
Teamwork and collaboration are Patti’s passions as she believes we achieve the best results together in a positive and safe space.

Patti earned an M.B.A. from Regis University in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and Certified Event Designer (CED). In June 2020, she became one of 5 Certified Event Design Online Facilitators in the world earning a CED+ certification.


Dee Swanson

Dee Swanson, Talent Acquisition Manager, Enterprise Holdings

Experienced Talent Acquisition Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the leisure, travel & tourism industry. Skilled in Negotiation, Sales, Cold Calling, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Customer Satisfaction. Strong human resources professional with a Bachelor's Degree focused in Marketing from the University of Arizona. 


Julie White

Julie White, Tourist Development Director at Santa Rosa County Government

Julie White leads the Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Office as the Director. Julie is always analyzing ways to better market and promote the destination she represents, Navarre Beach. Since taking the position in 2014, she has successfully helped to brand the destination as Navarre Beach Florida’s Most Relaxing Place giving it a strong selling point in the market. Earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management from Tusculum College in Greenville, Tennessee, Julie got her professional start in nearby Monroe County. In her tenure with the Monroe County Government Tourist Development Office as Executive Director, she oversaw visitor centers and made daily decisions on marketing her destination to potential tourists. Julie was also an appointed State of Tennessee National Scenic Byway leader representing the Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway. She also worked directly with the State of Tennessee on several notable tourism projects. Julie came further south to the Sunshine State out of a love for the panhandle area’s white sand beaches and a desire to promote a beach destination she believed in. Julie is active in many business and trade organizations and has been the recipient of many tourism awards. She has served on Visit Florida’s Visitor Services Committee and Global Air and Trade Travel Committee for the state. In her spare time, she makes exploring different areas a priority with the Hawaiian Islands making her top 5 list for the last 20 years! 


Nick Murray, Corporate Director of Food and Beverage at Innisfree Hotels

Nick Murray grew up in restaurants. Starting at the age of 9, he began helping out in his father’s restaurant in Traverse City, Michigan. By 14, he was spending his summers running catering operations out of the restaurant while helping to oversee the kitchen as a whole.

Several years later, he helped develop and open Phil’s on Front, where for many years he served as the Chef de Cuisine. Murray soon saw the need to grow his career beyond restaurants and left to work at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, a 600-room hotel complete with a 16th-floor fine-dining operation with panoramic views of Lake Michigan and two award-winning golf courses. Two months into his tenure there, he was charged with running the 240-seat fine-dining operation Aerie.

Later in his career, Nick joined the West Bay Beach Resort in Downtown Traverse City, where he would eventually become the Executive Chef/Food & Beverage Director. There, he oversaw a nightclub, 100-seat outdoor restaurant on Grand Traverse Bay and a full-service banquet and catering operation.

After several years in Traverse City, Nick was offered a position as the Director of Food and Beverage at The Henry in Dearborn, MI. A Marriott Autograph Collection hotel with $10 million per year in F&B revenue, servicing a wide variety of clientele and cultures, Nick helped build the F&B operation to be top in the Autograph brand while exceeding financial goals.

While at the Henry, Nick received an opportunity to open a Renaissance Hotel in Toledo, OH. There, he oversaw the concept, design, development, and construction of two independently branded restaurants inside the hotel, a lobby-level fine dining restaurant and an 11,000 sq. ft. rooftop bar coupled with a full-service banquet and catering operation. Nick was responsible for building the opening team of 190 team members while maintaining and building the operation from the ground up.

In March 2019, Nick received a phone call from Innisfree Hotels, and two weeks later he flew down for a meeting with Jason Nicholson, VP Hotel Operations and Ted Ent, President & CEO – he now serves as the Corporate Director of Food & Beverage for the Northwest Florida-based hotel company.

When he is not at work, you can find Nick at the gym. He actively participates in competitive powerlifting, strongman, and CrossFit; he is glad to live near the water again as he has recently taken up paddleboarding.