International Doctoral Student Thrives in Hospitality Management

South African student pursues organizational behavior research

Thamsie Jongile, a UM doctoral student in hospitality management from Cape Town, South Africa, and Prabhdeep Sandha, a doctoral student in nutrition from India, engage in lively conversation as they walk across the Ole Miss campus. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s School of Applied Sciences offers rich educational and research opportunities that attract students from all over the globe, including Thamsanqa “Thamsie” Jongile, a doctoral student in hospitality management from Cape Town, South Africa.

Jongile explained that his interest in hospitality management stems from his time growing up.

“My grandmother (told me), ‘You have the personality for it,'” he said. “I chose (hospitality management) because it is not such a common thing to study back in South Africa, and when I grew up, I never had the chance to travel.”

A native of Zimbabwe, Jongile grew up in South Africa. After finishing high school in 2011, his mother’s work took the family to the Netherlands, where he earned his undergraduate and master’s degree at Stenden University.

While he was pursuing his undergraduate degree in hospitality management, Jongile participated in an exchange program at Auburn University, marking the first time he had ever been to the United States.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’ve never been to the U.S.,’ and back where I grew up in South Africa, the U.S. is big,” said Jongile. “But obviously when they talk about it, they don’t talk about Auburn, Alabama, because on TV, they only show big towns and not small ones.”

“Southern hospitality is not advertised anywhere else other than in the U.S. Almost everybody was excited to see everybody, and I never had that before. I thought, ‘Wow this is great.”’

After his year abroad, he returned to the Netherlands and became somewhat of an ambassador for the program. According to Jongile, 27 students participated in the program the year after he did.

Once he completed both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in the Netherlands, Jongile began planning his return to the United States.

“I was looking for an opportunity to go back to the U.S., because I wanted to have a full experience,” he said. “When you only have one year, you want more.”

During this time in 2015, Jongile interned with a residential cruise ship, traveling the world for 28 weeks and meeting a student from Mississippi who was on the trip. The Ole Miss football team had beaten Alabama that year, and everybody, especially his new friend, kept talking about the school, Jongile said.

After his time on the cruise ship, Jongile worked in New Orleans, where he met more Ole Miss alumni.

“They all told me that Ole Miss is great, so I thought I’d start looking into it,” Jongile said. “I had never been here and I did not have a lot of information about it. I thought I’d still just apply.

“When I applied to Ole Miss, it was crazy. Within an hour, I had a response with more information about the program (and an invitation) to come visit. It felt like Ole Miss was more interested in having me than everyone else, which made me even more interested, and I began to read about other students and their experiences here.”

According to Jongile, adjusting to life at Ole Miss and Oxford has been a smooth transition thus far, mainly because of the campus atmosphere.

“At most other campuses, you’re just a number, whereas here I don’t feel that way, especially in my department because in a big way, your department becomes your university experience,” he said. “It’s this whole small family thing, which helps you develop fast and easily integrate into the society, and with people being from different places, there’s so much to learn.”

Jongile’s research interests include organizational behavior and human resources. Following graduation, he wants to return to South Africa, where he plans on using some of his research.

“I’m from Cape Town, and hospitality is a very big thing there,” Jongile said. “But there are also communities surrounding Cape Town where hospitality is even greater; however, they are undermarketed.

“Unemployment is very high, so I want to focus on how we can use tourism and hospitality to overcome unemployment and eradicate poverty.”

The presence of international students can offer learning opportunities for other students, said Yunhee Chang, interim chair of the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management.

“Students learn from different cultural, social, educational and professional experiences and perspectives the international students bring and share, not to mention the obvious benefit to the students who are already thirsty to learn about global hospitality and tourism,” Chang said. “The presence of classmates from all over the world opens everyone’s eyes to diverse viewpoints. 

“For a relatively new doctoral program, we are fortunate to have students representing as many as eight countries. Sometimes cultural differences create inconvenience, but I witness every day the benefit far outweighs the cost. Our students seem to get along and have fun with each other.

“Knowing that someone actually chose to come all the way from Cape Town to study at UM invigorates other students who have been here for most of their lives.”

For more information about the Ph.D. program in Nutrition and Hospitality Management, visit