The following interview was conducted by Tisch Center student worker, Haley Park.
What is your background?
My background starts over 35 years ago in the hospitality industry. I worked as a general manager for a several boutique luxury hotels and built and rebranded a few as well. For over 15 years I was the Chief Marketing Officer Denihan Hospitality Group, running their marketing for several properties in Chicago, New York, South Beach, Miami, and Los Angeles. A few years ago I decided to do something different and give back. At the time, I was guest lecturing at Harvard Business School and decided to do some of my own consulting work and try teaching. Around the same time I started a non-profit organization, CityLax.org, partnering with Mat Levine. When we started the organization, there were 3 High School lacrosse teams in the New York City, and now thanks to CityLax there are over 75 teams in New York supported by CityLax. We currently support over 2,500 school aged kids, ranging from elementary school students to High school student-athletes. We are also supporting students in Albany NY. Lacrosse is the tool but staying in school and creating a future is the goal. Over 98% of our eligible student-athletes graduated last spring.
At the Tisch Center, you teach the Consulting Strategies course for graduate students in the MS Hospitality Industry Studies and the MS Tourism Management. What are the objectives of the course?
Consulting strategies is a capstone course which means the students work with companies outside of NYU, but within the academic structure of the school. This course is super exciting for me as I get to connect students with business relationships I’ve built over the years and bring them together for this class. In Consulting Strategies I set up teams of 3-4 students who work with outside companies on consulting projects. This allows for students to get their hands dirty in a practical way. The companies we work with are all over the hospitality spectrum ranging from tourist locations to digital marketing companies, to working with developers who want to build a new hotel or resort.
What are some concrete examples of the material that you cover and projects that you and your students have worked on?
Currently we are working with Peter Slatin, co-founder of the Slatin Media Group which specializes in increase accessibility to disabled travelers. Students have learned that our ADA codes are not enough to make the disabled comfortable traveling. There is a lot of training still left to be done around disabled travel and how to ease travel for this growing segment of travellers. Peter, who is blind, is really doing an excellent job leading by example and bringing the challenges disabled travellers face to light. Students are working with him to accelerate awareness on this issue. Many hospitality organizations are starting to recognize that there is more to be done to attract and cater to the disabled traveler. We are far from done. Companies that embrace this growing market segment are reaping the benefits.
Another project that we are working with is Arlington,Texas. Arlington is a city that has experienced rapid growth in the last few years with the influx of professional sports venues to the city. Arlington is now ready to bring the world to its Texas with the first online gaming stadium in the US. With the video gaming industry continuing to grow, this gaming stadium, built by Jerry Jones, is a place where you can watch top gamers compete. This new attraction will definitely bring in a new type of traveler to Arlington. We’re helping the Convention bureau ready the city for international travel, and ways to attract more international travelers.
What sort of impact do you hope to have on your students through this course?
In addition to the clients students work with, I also bring in guest speakers, particularly entrepreneurs who are running their own consulting businesses in hospitality. No matter what area of the industry that you are in or end up landing in, having the mind of a consultant is a valuable skill. Looking at things from a fresh, new perspective will allow you to come up with innovative ideas and it will force you to constantly try to innovate!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
As a professor, I love this class because it is so collaborative. I often learn more than I teach! Every semester is different because the teams of students are different and the clients and projects are constantly changing. I feel very fortunate to be teaching this course at NYU. There are so many fantastic clients we can work right here in NYC. The students really enjoy the fact that there are people right outside their back door that we can bring into the classroom for discussion. For example, if in class we start talking about Google and we want to talk to someone at Google, given our location, we actually have the ability to do so. The practical nature of this course is really great and I personally am thrilled to be working with NYU students. One of the things I am really excited about is that some of my students have gone on to become consultants in hospitality and have come back to speak in class. It gives me a great thrill to hear them talk about their work and hear about their view of the future.