Sommelier Sarah Malik Goes Deep into Wine Studies to Train Today’s Students

November 2023 Update: The M.S. in International Beverage Management mentioned in this article is no longer being offered.

Associate Professor Sarah Malik.

Associate Professor Sarah Malik is fascinated with wine. She says when she started teaching, she saw the potential for helping people truly understand wine. “I saw the importance of educating myself by digging deeper. When I started studying, I didn’t know enough.”

Her love of vino gradually grew during the many years she worked in the hotel and restaurant industry. She attended Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, England, where she studied hotel catering and institutional management, and Oxford Brookes University where she earned a master’s degree in business administration. She fine-tuned her skills while working as a food and beverage manager for Hilton International in Manchester, where she focused on ordering various wines and updating inventory. At that time the company sent her to Switzerland to study menu engineering.

Later Malik started a job there teaching hospitality operations classes. Moving to Switzerland changed the course of her professional and personal life. During that time, she served as a visiting professor at JWU’s Providence Campus and she hasn’t looked back, and her thirst for wine knowledge could not be quenched.

A student during one of Professor Malik’s class.

“We need to know our craft. People think they know a lot about wine, but really don’t. As an instructor, I went after credentials and diplomas. I had to go deep and understand things … I needed to know more than the people I was teaching,” she says.

Malik earned a diploma and a sommelier certification from the International Sommelier Guild in 2009 and a Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) diploma in 2011 — both some of the highest levels of certifications there are. “There is a very high fail rate, around 37-47% don’t pass these intense and lengthy exams.” As recently as the 1980s, America's prominent female sommeliers could be counted on the fingers of one hand. But women, including Malik, have found their niche in this role, demolishing old stereotypes. 

Associate Professor Sarah Malik teaching a class.

Malik used her diplomas, training and knowledge as a wine professional to help develop JWU’s master of science degree in International Beverage Management, along with Professor Alistair Williams.

“Having this master’s degree gives people who are in the industry — it validates their expertise. It’s more than a certificate. There are great courses in wine, beer and spirits and a lot of business courses that are built around beverage. This is a global degree that can provide a student with a diverse and fascinating career. JWU is giving students skills and knowledge they can take into their professional and personal lives. The wine industry [offers] a secure job, even during this pandemic. People drink no matter what. The master’s degree will open up a lot of doors in beverage related businesses.”