Leaders

EHL’s Excellent Hospitality Education Comes to Southeast Asia

Managing Director Ms. Jenny Ang tells us all about EHL’s focus on Southeast Asia, its intriguing collaboration with the renowned Intersections Gallery, as well as what potential students can look forward to at the Singapore campus.

Nov 03, 2021 | By Joseph Low
Jenny Ang, EHL Managing Director
Ms. Jenny Ang, Managing Director. Image: EHL

Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) is a university steeped in Swiss hospitality education, with a history that spans over 125 years. Having established itself as a leader in its field, EHL is known for setting the standard of excellence when it comes to hospitality. Today, it prides itself on combining the Swiss values of academic rigor and industry practice with the creativity and innovation required for modern hospitality to equip its graduates with the necessary skills to lead the industry.

Having recently launched a campus in Singapore, we took the opportunity to catch up with Managing Director Ms. Jenny Ang to learn more about the recent development. In our chat, Ms. Ang tells us all about EHL’s focus on Southeast Asia, its intriguing collaboration with the renowned Intersections Gallery, as well as what potential students can look forward to at the Singapore campus.

Read on for more.

You recently took the plunge from managing a music school to launching a hospitality school in Singapore, tell us more about this rather unusual yet exciting move?

Different opportunities emerge in life, and some are very compelling! After completing my music degree in London, I returned to Singapore just as the first conservatory of music opened its doors and I joined as one of its founding members. Working for a brand new institution allowed me to take on many different roles along the way.

Serendipitously, the Singapore conservatory signed one of its first Memorandum of Understanding for international partnership with the Haute Ecole de Musique Lausanne. That was how I got to know Lausanne and western Switzerland which led me to EHL! I am very humbled to be able to contribute again to a milestone project in Singapore — launching EHL’s first international campus here.

Musicians and artists have an unwavering quest for excellence, perfection, and beauty. This value is very much at the core of the hospitality business, so it is still very true to my identity!

EHL’s campus is reputed to be one of the top hospitality schools in the world, and Singapore is the its first overseas campus. So, why Singapore and will there be any unique offerings here?

We are pleased to launch EHL’s latest campus here in Singapore to meet the growing demand for hospitality professionals in Asia. The EHL Campus (Singapore) provides students with a multifaceted educational experience with an aim to expand opportunities and education for future hospitality leaders to thrive in an international landscape.

The curriculum at the new campus will combine EHL’s renowned Swiss-quality education with genuine Asian refinement. Students at EHL Campus (Singapore) will be able to participate in partnerships with local establishments, learn from talented Asian-based industry experts, many of whom come from EHL’s network of alumni that includes 150 individuals living in Singapore, and guest speakers in order to provide students with practical applications and knowledge that are specific to Asia-Pacific.

Offering a range of courses for students of all nationalities, age, and background, the campus will give students a step up in their careers in any service-related industry from hospitality, banking, consultancy, luxury sector, and more.

Singapore is a country well-known for its high standards in tourism and hospitality and is a gateway to the rest of Asia. As a travel hub and one of the most desired places to live in, it boasts some of the world’s best restaurants, beautiful hotels and impeccable leaders within the industry. Opening a campus here will expose students to the diversity and nuances in Asian culture, as well as the variety of businesses in the region.

You mentioned that you wish to elevate EHL’s presence in Southeast Asia, “giving more opportunities to Southeast Asian students to study in Singapore, or for our alumni members to work with regional communities”. How are you currently attracting and bringing these students to Singapore?

Asia is the fastest-growing market for hospitality and continues to show a strong need for talent. Launching a campus in Singapore will allow students from all over the region to receive the same world-class Swiss education as on the campuses in Switzerland without travelling too far. Including a local Asian flair and context into our curriculum also provides relevancy as well as gives students an edge over their competitors as they navigate the changing business landscape in hospitality and beyond.

The courses offered at EHL Campus (Singapore) are catered to students of all nationalities, ages, and backgrounds, from undergraduates who are looking to attain the same prestigious Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality that is available in Switzerland to mid-career professionals looking to upskill with our executive education short courses that are tailored for professionals within the hospitality industry or individuals with a passion in these fields — Luxury Brand Management, Designing Hotel and Restaurant Concepts and People Analytics.

We also work closely with industry partners, many of whom are EHL alumni, to create regional-relevant case studies and examples to ensure relevancy to the local context and professional needs.

EHL Campus (Singapore) Front
Image: EHL

You have shared that music and hospitality “both tell a story and deliver an experience”. Can you tell us more about the experience you evision for your students at EHL Singapore?

Like music, people come first in the hospitality business, both from an internal business point of view as well as from an external customer perspective, as we strive to present a perfect yet transient product to be experienced by others. This is becoming more important, especially amid the pandemic, where service levels have become a critical differentiator in an increasingly competitive business landscape.

I hope that students graduating from EHL will learn not only key quantitative skills — the science of managing business operations and ensuring sustainability but also soft skills such as communication and leadership to deliver the true art of hospitality. These characteristics are a necessary asset for every person, helping them to become integral parts of their teams and society.

Tell us more about the significance of art at EHL Singapore and the very innovative “Art on Campus” project: what does the project relate to and how is it being implemented on site?

Art and music, like great food and wine, are life-enhancing. They also trigger emotions and inspire conversations. For me, it was important that arts and culture also feature in our students’ campus experience, both for enjoyment as well as part of their professional development.

EHL’s campus in Singapore is located on Lady Hill Road at the former Kinloss House, which was built by a Scotsman, Colonial Engineer Alexander Murray, in the early twentieth century as his private residence. The house was extended in the 1930s and embellished with beautiful art deco design it still has today.

When EHL took over the building last year, we worked together with architects, interior designers and furniture companies to construct a functional campus within the confines of heritage-listed building restrictions. The focus was to create a high-standard learning environment while optimising space usage for learning activities, and to equip it with technologies that enable blended learning and online collaboration between our campuses.

It is also important for the space not to feel cluttered or overcrowded to ensure uninterrupted study time and downtime. Art plays an important role in harmonising this and magnifying the beauty of the building.

Working with Intersections Gallery, the art at EHL Campus (Singapore) is rotated every six months and introduces students to the local culture through the artists and their artworks.

You have chosen to partner with Intersections Gallery and its founder Marie-Pierre Mol to run this project. How did you two meet and agree on such a forward-thinking collaboration?

I took a while to consider how to go about incorporating art on campus, finding pieces that would resonate, figuring out if the messages they convey align with EHL values, and thinking about how each piece fit in the space and with one another — the curation process is a complicated one!

I came across Intersections’ artworks at the French residence in Singapore which I felt were really tastefully put together and so I was introduced to Marie-Pierre Mol. I invited her on campus, showed her around the building and explained what I wanted to achieve — to have beautiful artworks by Asian-based artists that would complement the building design and to have our students appreciate the value of art.

Intersections came back with that and more. Marie-Pierre selected pieces that not only celebrated the Singaporean identity but also brought out the soul of the campus and the connections with food and drinks. We worked out a partnership to showcase two exhibitions a year at EHL. For the current exhibition, she presented a curator’s talk to the students which allowed us to see the same art through a different lens and we had a lively discussion afterwards.

In a few months, we will have a different set of artworks on display with a different narrative and I’m looking forward to people’s responses! Hopefully, by then we can organise more events linked to the exhibition.

EHL Student, Hugo Tydén
“This piece of art is definitely my personal favorite. It contributes with such a warm and harmonic feeling with its strong colors to the whitest wall in Singapore.” EHL student, Hugo Tydén. Artwork: Emi Avora, diptych, It Looked as If It would Last forever & What strange Places My Mind Frequented.

EHL Campus’s ‘Oh My Island in the Sun’ art project includes a tribute to Gilles Massot, who recently left Singapore after contributing for 40 years to the local art scene. The exhibition will also be part of the VOILAH! festival 2021. Tell us more about it — will Singapore residents be able to visit and experience the show at EHL Singapore?

In collaboration with VOILAH! French Singapore Festival and the Art Galleries Association Singapore, Oh My Island in the Sun is a group exhibition by Eddie Botha, Emi Avora, Christian Lukey, Gilles Massot and Andy Yang. It encompasses a selection of paintings and photographs inspired by and celebrating Singapore’s identity through artists’ eyes. These artworks have in common to transcend ordinary observation into something extraordinary.

Special guided tours are available on 20 and 21 November. Members of the public can register to attend via voilah.sg/oh-my-island-in-the-sun

On another note, The Fullerton Hotel has selected a solo show by Emi Avora, one of the artists showcased at the EHL campus, for its upcoming charity show at the hotel premises. Tell us more about this exhibition this coming November 2021?

Emi Avora is a Singapore-based artist and one of the artists showcased at EHL Campus (Singapore). She creates artworks with uplifting vibes that bring a positive atmosphere, combining elements from her upbringing in Corfu, Greece, as well as from Singapore’s identity such as Peranakan details as well as local food, flora and fauna.

Her everyday observations of a new and unfamiliar culture when she moved to Singapore became her main source of inspiration. She creates colourful dream spaces, intermingling inanimate objects with tropical plants which seem to grow organically among bottles, bowls, cups and glasses, and transforming everyday lunches or teatime into lavish and even baroque scenes.

Her exhibitions at EHL Campus (Singapore) and The Fullerton Hotel illustrate the importance of art in hospitality as well as the relevance of art on the campus as they have in common an aim to make the ordinary extraordinary and to offer viewers access to the dream places they seek.

Her solo exhibition at The Fullerton Hotel, called My Life In a Tropical Garden, joyfully celebrates Singapore’s identity and lush scenery. Like the Singapore modern painters of the Nanyang School, who created a unique style by depicting an idealised tropical environment, Emi has significantly changed her visual language in response to her impressions of Singapore.

EHL Campus (Singapore
EHL Campus. Image: HYLA Architect/ Derek Swalwell

On an EHL’s corporate level, how important are diversity and inclusion as values and goals?

With over 120 nationalities among its student body and around 40 nationalities among its staff members, diversity and inclusion are at the core of EHL Group. We aim to offer an empathetic working and study environment which embraces diversity and fosters inclusion. As part of our new sustainable commitments, EHL is taking concrete and measurable steps to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of our students, alumni, staff, and faculty globally. 

A current and clear example of this is how we changed our historical dress code and introduced a new “Guide for Professional Appearance” that complies with industry requirements while enabling our students and staff members to express their personalities and individual identities. Our dress code is now inclusive of cultural and religious diversities, which means that wearing religious symbols is acceptable, and is also gender-neutral, which means that we do not make a distinction based on a binary view between dress codes for women or men.

To create an inclusive and diverse community, EHL is also looking to increase the percentage of women among our staff and within positions of responsibility. Today, almost 50 per cent of women are in management positions including myself, Executive Dean Dr. Inès Blal, and President of the Boards Dr. Carole Ackermann, just to name a few. EHL also empowers women to become leaders by furthering its Women in Leadership initiative and Speak Up workshops across each of the campuses.

EHL Student, Matheus Leimann
“This photo by the piano and grand staircase is my favorite. It shows a lot of musical expression and is very powerful and colorful. At one glance it looks like an abstract art piece but I see a map of Singapore in the shape, which is very interesting”. EHL student, Matheus Leimann. Artwork: Andy Yang, An Encounter with the Ark.

You are also ensuring that women get recognised within the hospitality industry through the Women in Leadership (WIL) Initiative, of which EHL is a partner. This is a bold and very innovative move, can you shed more light on it?

EHL’s Women in Leadership Initiative aims to promote leadership culture and policies that foster diverse, balanced, and people-focused environments. It enables students, faculty, staff, and alumni to lead fulfilled professional and personal lives by raising awareness, disseminating knowledge, exchanging experiences, sharing best practices, and initiating innovative women-related projects.

Since its launch in 2018, it has promoted social changes in EHL as well as in the broader hospitality sector by addressing topics such as leadership, inclusion, and belonging; entrepreneurship for women; networking and mentoring opportunities, as well as family and work management.

Alongside this, EHL has also been running Sexual Harassment Prevention campaigns since 2019 across the establishment. As a leader in hospitality management education, we were alarmed to find that sexual harassment is prevalent across the hospitality industry, with one in five women experiencing sexual harassment at some point in their lives, according to a report by Amnesty International.

To combat this, our Academic Advisory and HR teams work together to educate, protect and empower students and staff on the topic of sexual harassment. Additionally, we work closely with our stakeholders and partners to promote empowerment and well-being internally and externally. We have collaborated with the Non-Violence Project Foundation, which was founded in 1993 by an EHL alumnus, and so far, we have trained over 2,000 staff and students to tackle this issue.

We hear that you’re an achieved pianist … Do you still find time to play the piano despite your busy daily schedule?

Life is indeed busier than ever, as it is for many people, but this actually makes it even more compelling for me to find time to play the piano again! It offers a respite into a different world. I play regularly with a cellist (who is also a busy professional passionate about music) and we have been challenging each other with new pieces to work on, together with a glass of wine, of course.

If you were to name one mentor who has had a strong influence on your career and vision of life, who would that be?

I am very lucky to have had the support of many people. If I could only name one, it would be my father. He is a man of great integrity and foresight and has a sophisticated taste for art (which he collects). Circumstances were not easy but he ran a very successful provision shop and was astute in investments. He was always supportive in my life’s decisions, including my choice to study music which was unusual at that time for a Singaporean. He brought me to art galleries every weekend and gave me several very special gifts, including commissioning an artist to paint my portrait and buying a grand piano for me when I was 10. This piano now sits in the main foyer at EHL.

Learn more about EHL Campus (Singapore) here.

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