Dr. Mary Wisnom defines what it means to be a “dedicated contributor.” Her work with the recent ISPA Academy would alone grant her that title, but Wisnom has also spent her entire career working towards a better and brighter future for the spa industry. Wisnom is a Professor and Spa Management Coordinator for the School of Resort and Hospitality Management in the Lutgert College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University. She boasts over 30 years of passionate experience in the hospitality industry as a practitioner and educator. Through that passion, Wisnom has edited spa textbooks, supported the nomination of several students pursuing the ISPA Foundation Mary Tabacchi Scholarship, served on many ISPA committees and taskforces, and been an all-around supporter of ISPA’s mission. Join us in thanking her for her invaluable contributions to our community.

When did you first hear about ISPA and what prompted you to join?
When I was first managing club and resort spas, there was no ISPA. I would have loved the resources and know-how of ISPA back then. In 1991, I left the industry to pursue my doctorate at Michigan State University and become a teacher. After teaching for several years at Central Michigan University, I learned a colleague was developing a new resort and hospitality program at Florida Gulf Coast University and it was her plan to have a spa management component. Knowing my background, she encouraged me to apply. Excited by the opportunity to develop a spa management curriculum, I researched different professional associations that could help me in my new task and I discovered and joined ISPA.

Why is giving back to ISPA so important to you?
It’s in my nature to give back to those that have given me so much. It is hard to imagine teaching spa management without ISPA. Without ISPA’s research and resources, it would have been nearly impossible to convince my university to approve a spa management program. Without ISPA’s publications, it would have been tough to develop a comprehensive spa management curriculum. Without my ISPA family, launching and making our on-campus spa a success would have been a much more difficult task. ISPA helped me achieve many of the tasks I faced after reentering the industry as a professor. ISPA helps me succeed every day so, naturally, I wanted to do my part to help ISPA succeed.

What was the most rewarding part of compiling the ISPA Academy?
With a project this size, I think the launch in March was the most rewarding. We had been working on the project for nearly two years, so to finally see the fruits of our labor was very exciting. To finally have a comprehensive collection of spa industry resources all in one place is
really fantastic.

Who do you hope benefits from the ISPA Academy?
I think anyone interested in the spa industry will benefit from the ISPA Academy. The resource contains so much interesting and enlightening content, that I believe anyone from new students to seasoned industry leaders can learn something. Academy content, including textbooks, industry articles, research, inspirations, and the new Spa Offerings (treatments and services) Encyclopedia content (found in the “Glossary Terms” section) has informative and inspirational content for all.

What do you think is one of the biggest hurdles the spa industry currently faces?
Limited growth in the number of academic programs available to educate future spa leaders in an industry that continues to grow at a rapid pace.

As an educator, you get the opportunity to teach the future leaders in the spa industry. What is one common trait you see in the spa leaders of tomorrow?
Passion for wellness and the desire to help people live healthier lives. When I started in the industry spa-ing was a luxury. I love that today’s spa management students understand that spa services are an important part of a wellness lifestyle, not just a luxury.

Who was the most influential ISPA Conference & Expo speaker you’ve ever seen?
Although I’ve been inspired by many ISPA Conference speakers over the years, the individual that most inspires me year-after-year is Deborah Szekely. Whenever she enters the stage I, like many others, get a
huge smile on my face and enthusiastically jump to my feet. Her business-sense, philanthropic efforts, wellness activism, support of the arts, energy-level at age 95, and her prominent place in spa industry
history makes her my favorite part of any ISPA Conference.

This year’s ISPA Conference & Expo theme is IGNITE. What do you hope your work will “IGNITE” in the future leaders of the spa industry?
As an educator, it is always my desire to IGNITE student passions and I do this primarily through teaching, research, and sharing information. My work with ISPA has included committee volunteering, textbook editing, speaker mentoring, and, of course, the recent work developing the ISPA Academy. It is my hope that my work with ISPA will kindle the flames of knowledge for my fellow spa industry enthusiasts and IGNITE their passion to never stop learning.