History

The School of Hotel Administration (SHA) is the most relevant, groundbreaking hospitality business educator in the world.

  • We prepare purposeful, authentic and vibrant future leaders
  • We discover transformative new knowledge
  • We act as the hub for thought leadership, serving the broader industry

We got our start more than 90 years ago when we launched the world's first undergraduate hospitality management degree program. Today our students receive a dynamic and focused educational experience in everything from real estate and finance to entrepreneurship and food and beverage management.

Inventing the "science" of hospitality

Like their contemporaries in manufacturing at the time, leading hoteliers in the 1920s saw the need to professionalize their business to set the stage for future growth. They aspired to create a first-rate academic institution dedicated to the study of the "science" of running hotels and restaurants—a novel concept at the time.

In 1922, at the request of leading hotel magnates and the American Hotel Association, the Cornell School of Hotel Administration was born. The world's first undergraduate hospitality management degree program launched with 21 students under the direction of a single professor, Howard B. Meek. Cornell was the ideal Ivy League home for this endeavor, given the university's inclusive mission to "found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."

Ellsworth and Alice Statler – The Names Behind the School

"Life is service – the one who progresses is the one who gives his fellow men a little more – a little better service."
- E. M. Statler

In 1927, at the second ever Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC) conference, Ellsworth M. Statler pronounced himself "converted." While many of his fellow hoteliers were behind the creation of the new hotel management program, the self-made millionaire who founded the largest hotel chain of his day, was skeptical. He believed those interested in a hospitality career would be better served by on-the-job training than by classroom learning. By the end of HEC weekend, he was changed, and so was SHA.

Although Statler died in 1928, he and his wife, Alice, became the school's founding benefactors. Over the years, the Statler Foundation has provided millions of dollars for teaching, research, scholarships, and facilities. It was Statler who set Cornell on its way to building the world's foremost hospitality management program, and his legacy lives on today in the critical role of experiential learning to our students' experiences.

From the Inn to Innovative

During the 20 years following Statler's visit to Cornell, the Hotel Department—as it was known then—set the standard for excellence in hospitality education. But the pioneering program also needed to grow and change to lead. So, in 1948, the Statler Foundation funded the construction of Statler Hall, including the Statler Inn, a 50-room "management laboratory." A full-fledged School of Hotel Administration was established two years later.

In the years that followed, SHA continued to break new ground. In 1973, it launched the industry's first master's degree program to give senior managers the knowledge and skills required to succeed in what had become an increasingly complex and global industry. Expanded executive education courses were also developed to help industry leaders accelerate their careers.

In 1986, the 150-room full-service Statler Hotel & J. Willard Marriott Executive Education Center was built on the site of the original Statler Inn. The hotel was reconstructed in 1989 and underwent multiple renovations between 2006 and 2015. It now features 153 contemporary guest rooms, many with breathtaking views of campus and the rolling countryside beyond. Today, the Statler Hotel is Ithaca's only AAA Four Diamond award-winning property, New York State's greenest hotel, and one of the world's most outstanding teaching hotels.

SHA continually modernizes its spaces to ensure exceptional student experiences and to renew our commitment to our industry. We feature outstanding classroom, lab, hotel, and conference facilities that support a robust and rigorous learning experience for all students.

Since 2004, SHA has enlarged and enhanced our world-class facilities with the Robert A. and Jan M. Beck Center—a spectacular learning space featuring state-of-the-art technology—an addition to the Statler Tower, a multipurpose space, reconstruction of the East Avenue entrance, major updates to classrooms, and construction of the Marriott Student Learning Center (MSLC).

Opened in 2012, the MSLC is a welcoming place where communication and collaboration are encouraged and where studying and socializing peacefully—and often dynamically—coexist. With its casual vibe and state-of-the-art technology, many students view the MSLC as their second home; a place where they can stop by to meet friends, print a document, work on a group project, or prep for an exam. Funded by a lead gift from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, the MSLC includes the Nestlé Library, Tsai Family Atrium, Club Room, and the George B. Mallory '54 Student Lounge.

Extending Our Global Reach

Hospitality is everywhere, and so is our school. Our graduates work in virtually every corner of the globe; in some of the world's finest hotels, resorts, and restaurants; most prominent hospitality and real estate firms; and entrepreneurial hospitality companies.

Throughout its storied history, SHA has evolved to keep pace with the growing demands of the hospitality field. Along the way the school has turned out extraordinarily accomplished alumni who are leaders in every facet of the world's largest and most dynamic industry.

Today, SHA is home to four centers and institutes focused on hospitality research, real estate and finance, entrepreneurship, and hospitality labor and employment relations. We have forged international relationships to expand programs in the burgeoning Asian market, exponentially expanded our global reach by venturing into the world of massive online open courses (MOOCs), and formed interdisciplinary initiatives that advance industry knowledge.

Recognizing the growing importance of the Asian market, in 2014, SHA partnered with the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai to launch a dual Master of Management in Hospitality (MMH) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program to provide students hands-on experience in an international setting.

The following year, SHA took its educational innovation to the next level, launching our first-ever MOOC, titled Introduction to Global Hospitality Management, to expand awareness of SHA and encourage those with little industry knowledge to see the hospitality industry in a new, multidimensional way. More than 15,500 individuals from around the world registered for the course.

SHA also continues to meet evolving industry needs through interdisciplinary collaboration, including its co-governance—with the College of Architecture, Art and Planning—of the Baker Program in Real Estate.

Moving forward, SHA remains committed to driving pioneering education and research in hospitality. In recognition of the quality of our students and our strong ties with industry, in 2014, we were recognized as the only stand-alone hospitality school in the world to earn accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).