The killing of George Floyd in May of 2020 stimulated long overdue conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) throughout the U.S. and around the world. Like other organizations, the leadership of the Cornell Hotel Society (CHS) took up this topic to assess how CHS is meeting the needs of the diverse population of Hotelies that attended the Nolan School of Hotel Administration (SHA).
In the summer of 2020, the CHS board formed a DEI Committee co-chaired by Stacy Delapenha ’14, Rohan Gopaldas ’02 and Anna Chung ’03. To guide their efforts, the DEI Committee established the following mission statement.
The CHS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee exists to address the diversity and inclusion issues facing the Cornell Hotel Society and our alumni base. We will work to ensure that the Cornell Hotel Society and our chapters create an inclusive environment for all SHA alumni to be welcomed and valued members of the CHS community. The CHS DEI committee will also work to build awareness and educate our members around systemic issues that prevent equity across our organization and the hospitality industry at large.
The DEI committee leadership then sought input from multiple Hotelies. This research was intended to assess the needs of students of color in the Hotel School and provide direction for future actions of the committee and CHS.
The DEI Committee research concluded that not all Hotelies felt as included in CHS as others. With this understanding, the DEI Committee then sought to identify actions that could be taken to provide a more inclusive CHS environment.
The committee decided on a two-pronged approach.
- Change the factors that have limited an environment of inclusion within CHS.
- Offer a series educational sessions designed to educate Hotelies about DEI challenges. Not only could this help the development of a more inclusive environment within CHS, but the educated Hotelies could take their knowledge back to their professional organizations to improve inclusivity within the hospitality industry at-large.
Changing the Environment
As with most alumni organizations, CHS members get involved when their friends get involved. Active membership and leadership have diversified but has lagged the pace of the diversification of the student body and graduates. The DEI Committee recommends pairing active CHS members and leaders with young alumni of similar race, sex and ethnicity to stimulate greater participation across cultural differences. The goal is for all young alumni to feel welcomed, valued members of the CHS community, which will ultimately build upon the strength of the Hotelie network.
Another way to get young alumni active in CHS is to participate in the CHS Lobby. Accordingly, the DEI Committee created a National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH) hub within the Lobby for alumni of color to interact.
The CHS DEI committee established the CHS Back to School series, a progression of online workshops that took place between September 2021 and February 2022.The sessions featured Hotelies and other industry leaders who have expertise in various aspects of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The series started with defining DEI and its state within our industry, then gave practical tools for both organizations and individuals to use within the workplace. The workshops in the CHS Back to School series are described below, and all recordings and resources can be found on the CHS Lobby.
|Workshop Title||Date||Featured Guests|
|Influencing Diversity Strategy in the Hospitality Industry||September 16, 2021||● Peggy Berg, Founder and President of the Castell Project
● Greg DeShields, Executive Director of PHL Diversity Tourism Matters
|Building a Culture of Inclusion and Belonging||October 21, 2021||● Baron Ah Moo ’93, Managing Director and Head of U.S. PKF HotelExperts
● Jodi Davidson, Vice President Global Diversity & Inclusion of Sodexo
● Allison Hill ’93, Head of Diversity & Social Responsibility at Roark Capital
● Ronisha Goodwin, Senior Manager of Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Hyatt Hotels
|Breaking the Middle Management Ceiling||November 18, 2021||● Evan Frazier ’92, President and CEO of the Advanced Leadership Group
● Geraldine Guichardo ’10, Global Head of Research for Hotels & Hospitality and Director of Living Research Across the Americas at JLL
● Crystal Thomas ’08, Vice President and Global Brand Leader for Luxury & Lifestyle Brands at Hyatt Hotels Corporation
|Building Strong Mentorship and Sponsorship Relationships||December 16, 2021||● Victor Younger, Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the Cornell Nolan School of Hotel Administration
● Tracy Prigmore, Founder of TLTsolutions and She Has A Deal
● Telesa Via, Vice President of Sales for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
● Bill Minnock ’79, Visiting Professor of Practice at the Cornell Nolan School of Hotel Administration
|Unconscious Bias Workshop*||January 20, 2022||● Fenimore Fisher, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Aramark
● Donnice Peterson, Employee Resource Group Manager at Aramark
|Intergroup Dialogue Workshop*||February 24, 2022||This session was led by Cornell’s Intergroup Dialogue Project (IDP) and presented IDP core concepts|
*This session was not recorded
To view recordings and resources from the Back to School series, please visit:
Following the Back to School series, the CHS DEI Committee is launching a mentorship program for students from minority serving institutions who are interested in building a career in the hospitality industry. The program is called Hospitality Career Coaching Circles (HC3) and is designed to help BIPOC students expand their networks and develop critical skills as they transition into hospitality careers. The committee is launching a beta version of the program this Fall. If you are interested in becoming a mentor as a part of our upcoming program, please contact Baron Ah Moo ‘93 (email@example.com).
After a two-year term with the original co-chairs, the CHS DEI Committee will be led by Abirami Dandapani ‘21 and Jacqueline Perkins ‘13 for 2022-2024. To volunteer with the DEI Committee, please reach out to Abi (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jackie (email@example.com).