At Polk State College, students have access to professors with extensive professional experience, published research, and prestige among international industries. One of these faculty members is Professor of Business Paul Howe, who brings decades of experience as a business owner, marketing specialist, and educator to his classroom as well as to the international stage.
On November 3, Howe will lead three seminars at The Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) Show 2022 at the Orange County Convention Center, which will bring up to 18,000 individuals from across the globe to Orlando. He will present on topics including advertising strategies, budgeting, and evaluation; developing a loyalty program; and maximizing marketing budgets through the development and dissemination of press releases.
“I am fortunate to have worked in the industry quite a bit. It came to a point early in my career when they wouldn’t put me in management because I didn’t have a degree, so I went and started my own business. I always thought, ‘because I don’t have a degree, I shouldn’t be in business then?’ Of course not,” Howe said.
This seed was planted early on when Howe was working as a diving instructor “for fun.” One of his first customers was impressed with Howe’s professionalism and recommended that he go into business.
Howe went on to open a New York dive shop and secure contracts with big clients including Cornell University and Ithaca College. He also became known for his use of widely successful marketing tools such as a loyalty program and press releases that resulted in publicity for his business.
With his real-world experience and the motivation to make his daughter proud, Howe went back to school at 30 years old to build on his entrepreneurial knowledge and knack for marketing. He holds an associate degree from Tompkins Cortland Community College, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Hospitality Management from Rochester Institute of Technology, and a doctorate in Organization and Management from Capella University.
After 10 years in business, he sold his shop in 1994 and became Marketing Director for Divi Resorts. He also completed his thesis that year which produced a diver profile on the Caribbean Island of Bonaire, where diving is the main market for tourism, Howe explained. Nearly 20 years later, Howe aspires to revisit his studies in Bonaire and take Polk State students with him.
“I want our students to be able to say, ‘this is what I did in college,’ and point to real-world experience and research.”
“Bonaire doesn’t have white-sand beaches, but the diving is incredible and that’s their main focus in attracting tourism,” Howe said. “Industry leaders there are looking for a longitudinal study and we could take students to work on research and collaborate on writing a paper.”
Howe and colleague Professor of Business Herbert Nold have Endowed Teaching Chair Awards to help fund this initiative. Additionally, Howe is traveling to Bangkok for an international business and hospitality conference where he will network with individuals and organizations who could provide research grant opportunities for this project.
“I would like to do this for the students,” he said. “I want our students to be able to say, ‘this is what I did in college,’ and point to real-world experience and research.”
In addition to Bangkok and his upcoming speaking engagement in Orlando, Howe has presented for a variety of conferences including the Travel Agent Magazine National Conference, Air Jamaica Caribbean Conference, and International Society of Travel & Tourism Educators. His work has also been published in The Boston Globe, The Vermont Magazine, Skin Diver Magazine, and The Northeast Diving Journal.
When asked what his greatest accomplishment is, he shares that seeing his students progress is most rewarding.
“With a lot of industry experience, I look at what I wasn’t prepared for when I got into business and I try to better prepare my students with the knowledge and skills they will need,” Howe said. “I share with my students the professional soft skills that are learned in the industry and how they can start developing those now. Writing is the No.1 critical skill. Being on time is important. I also tell them that if you can make your avocation your vocation, you will find something you love to do.”
The latter has led Howe to where he is today.
“It all comes back to diving, but I couldn’t have planned for this,” he said of his career, which also included a stint as Director of Education for the American Society of Travel Agents and has ultimately led him to his full-time faculty position with Polk State and five adjunct positions at other institutions. “We don’t teach to get rich. We do it because we have a passion and that is why I teach.”
“Seeing students progress and seeing them find their passions is rewarding.”
“Seeing students progress and seeing them find their passions is rewarding,” Howe added. “I have been blessed to travel and live abroad extensively, and I tell students that they can have the same thing and their own experiences. I tell them that I know what your education can do for you, and I know that they can get that great quality education here [at Polk State College].”