International competition means hands-on learning and industry connections

April 30, 2014

SHA students present at IHIF

David Weinstein ’15, Tom Jaeger ’14, and Tyler Shine ’15 giving the winning presentation

Over the course of six days in early March, three SHA students met hospitality students from all over Europe, connected with the tight-knit global network of SHA alumni, and toured one of the most popular cities in the world. Oh, yeah—and they presented an in-depth real estate case analysis in front of some of the heaviest hitters in hospitality investment.

It’s the kind of opportunity that any budding real-estate professional would relish.

Representing SHA and the Center for Real Estate and Finance (CREF), Tom Jaeger ’14, Tyler Shine ’15, and David Weinstein ’15 won first place in the Student Challenge – Developing the Future, held during the 2014 International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF), an industry conference in Berlin, Germany that attracted more than 2,000 investors, owners, and global hotel CEOs from more than 73 countries. Dan Quan, professor of real estate and academic director of CREF, coached the team.

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Taking in Berlin with Professor Dan Quan

“The student challenge gave us the opportunity to showcase the skills we’ve learned in the classroom and put them to practical use,” David explained. “To do this on a world-class stage like IHIF made this an experience I’ll always remember.”

David, who is co-president of the Cornell Real Estate Club, credited the SHA curriculum, which “meshes intense finance training and hotel operations,” for the team’s success. He also recognized that the positive team dynamic and diverse internship experiences of the group played a major role in the win.

With that description, he could really be talking about any number of experiential-learning opportunities at SHA. When participating in competitions, working as a manager at the Statler Hotel, running a restaurant, or organizing an industry conference, students take the theory they learn in the classroom and apply it to real professional situations, where black-and-white answers are hard to come by and effective teamwork, previous experience, and the ability to think on one’s feet are what matter most.

In the IHIF competition, the students acted as consultants for a fictional investment firm, developing a strategy to reposition the hotel, calculating costs, and outlining prospective financial statements. Each team had just eight minutes to present their analysis and ten minutes to answer questions from the panel of seven judges, all senior-level industry executives (including SHA alumni Raj Chandnani ’95 and Nic Mayer ’98). Other competing teams were from Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne and NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences.

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Meeting with Ted Teng ’79, president and CEO, The Leading Hotels of the World

When they weren’t busy practicing and presenting, Tom, Tyler, and David had the opportunity to connect with SHA alumni and friends who were attending the conference. The bond that Hotelies share—even when they’re meeting for the first time, even when they’re thousands of miles from Ithaca—was clear.

“At the School of Hotel Administration, I have always heard about the strong alumni network we have,” said Tom, Cornell Real Estate Club co-president. “When I actually experienced the strong connection between our alumni, I was blown away.”

During their trip to Berlin, the students gained new insights and contacts that will no doubt be important as they advance in the field of real estate. Just as importantly, they had fun—adding another standout experience to an already-full SHA career.

Tyler summed it up best, saying, “The chance to travel to another country and be an ambassador for Cornell and the School of Hotel Administration was a highlight of my college career.”

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