Colette Repisky ’22 & Alice Navadeh ’21 – 2020 Legacy Award Winners

In 2019 the Cornell Hotel Society established the Philippus Miller III ‘83 Legacy Award.  The award was designed to recognize and celebrate Phil Miller’s legacy as a builder of networks and relationships.  For decades Phil was the heart of the Cornell Hotelie for Life® that is the foundation of the Cornell Hotel Society (CHS).  The award is given to students that demonstrate an understanding of the spirit of Phil Miller – the importance of connecting and giving back.

The inaugural winners of the award in 2020 were Colette Repisky ‘22 and Alice Navadeh ’21.

About Colette Repisky ‘22

Even before enrolling as a student of the Cornell Hotel School, Colette was able to experience the power of the Hotelie network.  Colette started her college career at the University of Tampa, but knew she wanted to transfer to the Hotel School.

Before her official enrollment at Cornell, Collette volunteered to work at HEC 93 and 94, and attended the HEC event during homecoming in the fall of 2018.  While working HEC 94, Colette met and received advice from several alumni that were very impressed with her spirit, and desire to network.  One alumnus, Samuel Eisenman ’13, not only provided guidance on how to ensure her admittance to the school, he also offered Colette a job.

Since entering the Hotel School in the fall of 2019, Colette has continued to leverage the Hotelie network.  To find a job for the summer of 2020, Colette initially reached out to Tony Capuano ’87, who in turn referred her to David Pollin ’90.  David was impressed enough to offer Colette a summer job with PM Hospitality.  Unfortunately, the opportunity at PM Hospitality was cancelled due to COVID-19, so Colette reached out to a fellow Hotelie that was supposed to intern at the Gurney’s Resort on Long Island.  While no formal internships were available, Colette’s perseverance landed her a job at Gurney’s working in the restaurant.  One day at work Colette had the opportunity to spend a full hour with John Meadow ’02, principal of Scarpetta Beach, the restaurant within Gurney’s.  Once again, Colette was so impressed with amount of time a Hotel School alumnus would spend one-on-one with a student.

Colette is very comfortable reaching out to Hotel School alumni and has taken advantage of the CHS alumni directory on multiple occasions.  Colette had the opportunity to meet Ali Hoyt ’12 with STR, who then arranged for Colette to speak with fellow STR colleague Jan Freitag ’97.  While talking over the phone, Jan learned of Colette’s interest in travel, so he put her in contact with his classmate, Christina Foerster ’97 who sits on the board of directors of Lufthansa Airways.

As a winner of the Philippus Miller III ‘83 Legacy Award, Colette will have the opportunity to meet more Hotel School alumni during the CHS EMEA Regional Meeting scheduled for February 2021 in Rome.  She is eager to experience firsthand how powerful the global network is outside the United States.

Colette plans to focus on marketing during her remaining two years.  If you are a Hotelie in sales and marketing, be on the lookout for a call from Colette.

Picture below:  Four Hotelies spent the summer of 2020 working at Gurney’s Resort on Long Island.  Colette is second from the right.

 About Alice Navadeh ’21

Alice Navadeh ’21 was young and with her family driving through the Finger Lakes region during a summer vacation.  Dad made a wrong turn, and suddenly the family was lost on the campus of Cornell University.  “Wow, there’s the Cornell Hotel School”, mom exclaimed from the front seat.  Although mom’s enthusiasm was quickly forgotten, that was Alice’s first exposure to the home of Hotelies.

While growing up near Pittsburgh, Alice served as a waitress at the age of 16.  During this job she became aware of her love of food and beverage, as well as the joy she received being around people.  It was only natural that when applying for college, it was the hospitality programs that attracted her.

Alice’s older brother was enrolled at the Cornell ILR School when she began the college application process.  Because her brother was enjoying Cornell, she looked at the University website and quickly noticed the references to the Hotel School.  Flashbacks of her that family vacation filled her mind.

Alice’s initial application was met with a deferred acceptance, so she spent her freshman year at Penn State.  Although she enjoyed her time at Penn State and made several good friends, she could not turn down the opportunity to pursue her passion for hospitality.  Alice enrolled in the Hotel School for her sophomore year, and just completed her junior year in May of 2020.

Taking advantage of the school’s placement office, Alice has obtained two summer jobs with companies that have strong alumni ties.  Between her sophomore and junior years, Alice worked in San Francisco with Bay Clubs.  At the SHA Career Fair her junior year, Alice found a job with Delaware North to work in the Human Resources department at Shenandoah National Park during the summer of 2020.  Unfortunately, her HR opportunity was eliminated because of COVID related cutbacks.  However, Delaware North saw Alice’s talents and enthusiasm and offered her the opportunity to work as a “floater” across many departments in the park.  Before the summer would end, Alice found herself being promoted to a management position in the Food and Beverage department.

Concurrent with her time at Shenandoah, Alice leveraged her personal network of friends at Cornell to find a part-time job strategically placing internet ads on Google on behalf of a non-profit promoting early heart screening for kids.  When she is not encountering bears in the backwoods of Shenandoah, Alice drives to the local Dunkin Donut to take advantage of the internet and work on her Google ad assignments.  She has found working with a nonprofit and being in charge of $10,000 a month in Google Ad grant money to be extremely satisfying.

Beyond graduation, Alice is open to any area within hospitality, as long as she gets to “be with people and help people.”  Consistent with this ethos, her greatest interests lie in Human Resources and Food and Beverage.  Accordingly, Alice has struck up a strong relationship with Heather Jacobs ’94, Senior Vice President of People and Culture at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.  They met during a meeting of the Female Leadership in Hospitality Club.  Alice has been very impressed, and thankful, for all the one-on-one time Heather has given to her over the years, both on campus and over the phone.

Part of her reward for winning the Phil Miller III ’83 Legacy Award is a trip to New York in November of 2020 to participate in all the alumni events related to HX: The Hotel Experience convention.  Alice hopes that her return to Ithaca in the fall of 2020 is both successful and healthy enough to allow her to continue to experience the strong Hotelie network in New York.

Below, Alice (on the right) celebrates virtual HEC 95 in the spring of 2020.

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The Cornell Hotel Society and Cornell Hotel Foundation congratulate Colette and Alice, and welcome them to the Hotelie for Life® network. This interview was conducted by Robert Mandelbaum ’81.