Where will an SHA degree take you?
For many students, a degree from the School of Hotel Administration is about hospitality operations, as it’s always been. For others, it’s a gateway to a wide array of possible business careers.
Counting among its staff of 300 a number of SHA alums in leadership positions – notably its co-founder, president, and CEO, Rob Rush ’77 – LRA Worldwide is a case study in both the practical value of an SHA education, and the doors it opens to a world of professional opportunity.
LRA Worldwide started in 1980 as Lashner, Rush & Associates, a research, consulting, and auditing firm striving to be “the best at helping great companies and brands measure and deliver exceptionally satisfying customer experiences,” according to Rush. “We look for a hospitality DNA, this common element that infuses different brands and experiences.”
LRA has grown internationally in the past decade, now boasting offices in Austria and Singapore in addition to corporate headquarters near Philadelphia, PA, hometown for both Rush and co-founder/COO Stan Lashner.
We sat down with Rush and several fellow SHA alums on his team, all of whom echoed a common theme, regardless of the path each has taken to get where (s)he is now: the SHA experience is a rock-solid foundation upon which to build a business career.
“Experience” really is the operative word. Hotelies consistently cite the hands-on learning power of integrating coursework into the operations of a world-class teaching hotel like the Statler. As Rick Reilly ’02, senior vice president of strategy & research attests, “My experience within operations was invaluable. I really feel like I gained a lot of experience in the types of things that you can’t really learn in a textbook.”
Josh Kudisch ’05, director of strategy & research, builds on that thought. “The hands-on approach, whether it be for food & beverage, for hotel classes, finance – everything seems to have real practical use. Everything you’re doing translates into real live operations.”
An SHA degree on a resume tells prospective employers the bearer has accrued a wealth of directly transferable professional experience, not just through summer internships, but even while on campus. E. Brett Rubin ’08, global training manager, made the most of that by enrolling in SHA’s rigorous Hotel Leadership Development Program (HLDP). Starting freshman year, she held a number of different jobs at the Statler, including bell girl, front desk supervisor, and front office manager. “The best part of HLDP,” she says, “is I was able to start my career at 18. That reason, for a large part, helped me grow so quickly in my career.”
Both before and after graduating, many Hotelies benefit from the almost-legendary camaraderie of the Cornell alumni community. As sales director Stephanie Perrone Goldstein ’01 relates, “I don’t think I’ve ever walked into an industry or a business that didn’t have a Cornellian out there, that was standing there with open arms, ready to talk to me and ready to nurture me, and to make sure that I was getting the most out of my life, out of my career.”