Alumnus and Students Partner to Ensure Sustainable Future for Carribean Island Community

Aerial view of the island of Salt Cay in the Turks and Caicos
June 24, 2020

In addition to his role as president and CEO of Copy General, Ken Chaletzky (BBA ‘71), is co-owner of Salt Cay Divers in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). This year, Ken partnered with Professor Linda Ambrosie’s Tourism Economics class to identify what type of tourism investment — cruise dock, luxury resort or "glamping," for example — could best revitalize the island of Salt Cay by attracting permanent residents, protecting the fragile ecosystem and showcasing its unique history.

Unlike other Turks and Caicos islands, Salt Cay’s population has plummeted to just 54 residents. Ken, a member of the GW School of Business (GWSB) Dean's Board of Advisors with over 50 years of diving experience, is passionate about the Salt Cay island community. He expressed his gratitude to Dr. Ambrosie and her Master of Tourism Administration (MTA) students for providing new insights into this complex and critical challenge, “Having people look at this from an outside perspective provided new interesting and helpful ideas.”

The key findings of the 31-page research study indicate a luxury resort would be best for the island and government considering not only financial outcomes but also the effects on the island’s environment and society.

Ken is optimistic the report will make a positive impact on Salt Cay’s future and plans to share the document with appropriate TCI government officials. The report has already received a positive response from leading international, eco-friendly resort groups.

One of the many homes on the island of Salt Cay in the Turks and Caicos

This experiential learning experience helped students explore tourism development approaches, contexts, and consequences in local, regional, and national destination contexts as well as economic aspects of strategic options in tourism development all while gaining invaluable professional experience.

GWSB 4+1 Program MTA student Kate Van Horn described her experience in the course as a young professional as meaningful. “During this experience we got to research the destination, meet with someone who actually has a stake in the outcome, and ultimately, see the result. This was an entirely new experience for me. The opportunity to participate in this project from start to finish was incredible and the full report is not something other people my age typically have to enhance their resume. As an entry-level consultant, one rarely gets to experience the core of a project, as they're typically doing low-level work that supports the larger picture. It was invigorating to be so involved at a high level, which allowed for the development of a deep connection to this project."

Similarly, this experience enabled student Rebecca Morris to see the immediate application of her work and develop problem solving and critical thinking skills, “I’ve done a lot of projects in the business school but this was an opportunity to see something happen in real time which was unique to this class. We’re reading articles and understanding concepts and actually applying them to something where we feel like the work we are doing could really make a difference. This project helped me become more creative when solving problems using large amounts of data and information.”

Aspiring tourism engineer Dinete Thomas enjoyed the opportunity to learn new ways of thinking as well as investigate a new region of the world far removed from his home in the UAE, “Since we were looking at many aspects of the island and what would work and not work, I learned a lot of entrepreneurship skills which will be very helpful in the future. This was a very tangible experience. For me, personally, I come from a different part of the world. Exploring this region led to a lot of big takeaways.”

Student Caecilia He was able to immediately put her learnings into practice during her internship with Solimar International, a consulting and marketing firm specializing in sustainable development, “This project helped me bring real research and analysis skills to help destinations identify sustainable tourism development strategies. I’ve already used the knowledge I gained to provide solutions to my consulting team and our client. It’s really helped me a lot.”

photo collage of GWSB students and faculty in the Turks and Caicos

The participants of this experiential learning collaboration, pictured clockwise from top left: Rebecca Morris ('20), Caecilia He ('20), Dinete Thomas ('21), Kate Van Horn ('20), Jaclyn Yost ('21), Dr. Linda Ambrosie, Visiting Assistant Professor of Management and Tourism Studies, and Ken Chaletzy (BBA ‘71), Co-Owner of Salt Cay Divers.

MTA Faculty Director Dr. Larry Yu, a longtime supporter of experiential education, extends his gratitude to Global & Experiential Education (G&EE) for facilitating this project-based learning experience, Dr. Ambrosie for her commitment to student learning, Ken for his interest in collaboration and supporting the development of GWSB students, and the students for their contributions to the Salt Cay community in support of sustainable development. “The MTA program is very proud of its experiential learning offerings. This is a great example of how we engage with destinations around the world right from campus.”

GWSB faculty interested in incorporating projects into their classes can contact Sarah LaRosa, Assistant Director, Global & Experiential Education at [email protected] to discuss learning objectives and potential structures.

Companies interested in collaboration with GWSB students and faculty on a project are encouraged to complete a Partner Engagement Proposal.