Crafting a Sustainable Future

Willy Aroca, Lecturer, FDU’s Vancouver Campus

On the hospitality lecturer’s travel bucket list? India and Vietnam. Photograph by: Martin Dee
By Mary Ann Bautista

There’s beauty in purpose and fulfillment. Willy Aroca, a lecturer of hospitality and tourism management, finds both in mentoring and empowering future leaders.

A founding member and regional vice president for a hospitality company in San Francisco, Calif., for 15 years, he had considered teaching but was hesitant to make the leap to academia.

After moving to Vancouver in 2007, he decided to go for it and fulfill his teaching dream: first at Eton College and then at FDU’s Vancouver Campus, where he found a close community feel and a more personal connection with international students.

Now, Aroca cannot imagine being elsewhere. He teaches hospitality-related graduate courses in human resources management and global marketing, conducts undergraduate courses in the BA in individualized studies program and advises students on theses. He also developed a curriculum on the sharing economy, focusing on the impact of Airbnb, Lyft and Uber on the hospitality and tourism industries.

It’s the relationships he’s nurtured with students that are most fulfilling. “As a child who arrived from Peru not knowing anyone or the language, I can relate,” he says. “By sharing my story, they come to me to share their fears and challenges.” Under Aroca’s guidance, students thrive. “When I meet parents it’s rewarding to think I had a part in their son or daughter’s personal development and academic success.”

He continues: “It’s rewarding to see my students graduate and build their lives. I’ve walked students down the aisle at weddings and have held their firstborn. Teaching is noble; it’s more than a job.”

As an educator, Aroca emphasizes the importance of sustainability-focused travel and tourism. “Being from Cusco, I’ve seen how tourism can be destructive,” he says. “The Peruvian government had to change how tourists visit Machu Picchu to lessen damage to this historical site. Venice [Italy] and Egypt are facing the same challenges, and it’s imperative that the industry factor in sustainability practices to preserve the beauty of these destinations while still making them accessible to tourists.”

By sharing his knowledge and life-work experiences with the next generation of professionals, Aroca is determined to ensure the hospitality industry flourishes.

“My father came from a modest background in Peru. He put himself through medical school and had a long, successful career. His integrity, perseverance and work ethic have inspired me.”

Ed. note: A version of this article first appeared in the Fall 2018 edition of FDU Magazine.