Meet Dr. Nicolas Graf, Chief Academic Officer of Les Roches Worldwide

18 Aug 2016 | by Les Roches


We are excited to welcome on board Dr. Nicolas Graf, our new Chief Academic Officer of Les Roches Worldwide. Dr. Graf brings more than 15 years of experience in researching and teaching in the areas of corporate finance and strategic management. Prior to joining Les Roches, Dr. Graf was Managing Director of Alain Ducasse Education & Consulting. Before that, he was Professor and Director of the IMHI Center of Excellence in Hospitality, Food & Travel at ESSEC Business School in Paris. He holds a PhD from the Pamplin College of Business of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and an MBA from HEC Lausanne and from the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland.

Dr. Graf sees great things in Les Roches and for the school’s future. Speaking about his first impressions of Les Roches, he said, “Les Roches is a great school. Within the faculty and staff, there’s a lot of talent and positive attitude.” At the same time, Dr. Graf has also identified some hidden strengths at Les Roches that are not so widely acknowledged — yet.

Although Les Roches is very well known in the industry as one of the top hospitality educational institutions in the world, it is not necessarily known for all the qualities the school has. In fact, it is a vibrant place for creation and transmission.

Those hidden strengths will become more evident in the near future. From evolutions in program content and teaching styles to technological innovation, exciting developments lie ahead for Les Roches. For Dr. Graf, these developments are all part of a natural movement emerging from Les Roches’ “historical DNA” as a global, innovative and entrepreneurial institution.

Dr. Graf views having a global outlook as key to Les Roches’ identity. While students at many other hotel management schools may come primarily from a handful of nations, Dr. Graf noted that “Les Roches is one of the most — if not the most — global hospitality schools.” With more than 100 nationalities on campus, Les Roches has a unique mix of backgrounds and cultures that is further enhanced by opportunities to study at five campuses across four continents. “Global to me means embracing complexity,” said Dr. Graf,

The world is not going to become any simpler. Being able to embrace diverse components of the world is a distinctive, valuable trait.

Perhaps that kind of global perspective has played a part in encouraging entrepreneurial talent to flourish at Les Roches. 33% of Les Roches alumni are entrepreneurs, and students have opportunities to develop their own business ideas both inside and outside of class. From Dr. Graf’s perspective, entrepreneurship is a trait that can be developed. “It’s not purely risk-taking — it’s linked to resilience, curiosity, a drive for success, ambition and a desire to create without being afraid of failure.”

Closely linked to this entrepreneurial mindset is a commitment to innovative approaches. For Dr. Graf, innovation is “about going to places where others have not gone, whether by fear or because they haven’t thought about it. It’s about discovery. A lot of the major discoveries in the world were made by people who were not experts. Experts tend to expect the usual, because they are trained to expect a certain outcome and may overlook the outliers. We want students to pay attention to outliers, because that is where creative and innovative solutions can be found.”

In order to nurture this drive to explore and push boundaries, Dr. Graf believes that preparing students for lifelong growth and learning is vital. “We facilitate learning, which in today’s world is of much greater value to students. Along with essential competencies and skills, we teach students how to learn as opposed to teaching them something which has a short shelf-life.” Strengthening this teaching philosophy, along with the traits that make Les Roches unique, will be a top priority for Les Roches’ future.


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